The Paris Motor Show has seen the surprise debuts of the Audi Steppenwolf and Porsche Carrera GT concepts, as well as concept vehicles from Citroen, Nissan, Lancia and a whole range of 'mini-concepts' from Peugeot, as part of the launch of their global Design Contest. Car Design News reports..

Photos and commentary by Brett Patterson

Audi Steppenwolf concept - The Steppenwolf allroader concept was a surprise debut for the Paris show. It shows a bold development of the geometric themes seen already on the TT and A2, and the continually developing Audi 'face' expressed in the lamp and grille shapes. One of the most noticeable form features is the strongely offset wheelarches which seem to be 'extruded' from the curved fender forms, and which may be seen in production Audi's in the near future. The vehicle also featured a swing-out tailgate, with spare tire on a slide out tray housed in the rear bumper

BMW Group Mini - BMW Group says the Mini is not a retro design car, but an evolution of the original - 'how the Mini would have evolved' had it been continually developed over the years.The cabin pillars are hidden behind the glass, giving the impression of a continuous window extending all round the car. Inside, the design is a modern interpretation of the simple and straightforward look of the original Mini, with its characteristic centre speedometer. On some models additional instruments are in front of the driver, with the central screen used for the navigation display.The headlamps and grille are integrated into the wrapover hood, so the entire front end swings up dramatically to reveal the engine bay.

Porsche Carrera GT concept - Another surprise debut for Paris, the Carrera GT has typical Porsche design elements, combined with influences seemingly from Italian exotics. Overall a very powerful, elegant design with flowing, muscular forms and technical details, such as the formed mesh engine covers. The Porsche Carrera GT features a 558-horsepower, V-10 engine. Top speed is 330 kph. "Today, this is still a concept car," said Porsche Chairman Wendelin Wiedeking. "In the year 2003, it may become a reality."

Citroen Osmose concept - Osmose is a symbol of user-friendly vehicle design, a passenger car initiating a new form of relations between pedestrians and motorists. The Osmose design allows for new forms of car sharing, with communication systems and features to optimize shared use "by people who have nothing in common apart from the fact that they happen to be going in the same direction".The interior theme puts the focus on nature, with a color scheme in green and brown, and a leaf print on the translucent roof that throws shadows onto the floor of the vehicle.The forms, materials and colors are strongly influenced by European architectural and industrial design, producing a fresh, 'non-automotive' approach to vehicle design.

Ford Mondeo - The new Ford Mondeo echoes the latest Ford 'family' look, with sleek, distinctive lines providing a crisp, poised and modern appearance. Strong shoulder forms and sharply defined wheelarches give the vehicle a solid, quality feel. Projector-style headlights add to the car's presence, while the sedans rear lamp design is graphically bold and elegant. Overall it's a much more convincing design than the previous models, something Ford had been missing in this segment.

Opel Corsa - The new generation Opel Corsa is an evolution of typical Corsa styling cues accentuated by Opel's new technically oriented form language of crisp lines and simple, taut surfaces. The tail-lights located high in the tailgate blend harmoniously with the rear window, forming a bold new styling element.This 'grown-up' Corsa picks up some influences from the Astra range, with a sharply defined bodyside shoulder, and A-pillars blending smoothly into the hood form. Also of note is the semi-wrapover hood. The face of the car appears more agressive and dynamic, with more sharply defined lamps and grille graphics.

Mercedes C coupe - While based on the C-class sedan, Mercedes-Benz is presenting the C-class sports coupé as a distinct model. The coupé design has a steeply raked beltline, a high rear end with integrated spoiler and a dark tinted panel between the rear lights.The new 2-door features an optional "panoramic" sliding roof that's about a third bigger than a conventional sunroof, and which can be operated by remote control. The glass panel in front of the sliding roof flips up to act as a wind deflector.

Renault Laguna - Renault is presenting the new Laguna hatchback and estate as two distinct designs. "These two new Lagunas have a Latin flavour, which they combine with a Germanic rigour in the treatment of their design" explains Patrick le Quément, Senior Vice President, Corporate Design. This expressive and structured aspect is most notably seen in the taut shape, the incisive lines and the wide-shouldered upper body side sections. The front-end design seeks deliberately to emphasise the car's width.The hatchback no longer has the Renault typical rear quarter windows and wrap-around of the rear hatch. It is a back end which is also notable for the wide horizontal lamp clusters and for the largely visually undefined upper section of the hatch. The short rear overhang allows the "propulsive" aspect of the car to be emphasised. "The feeling of a 4-door coupé" adds Patrick le Quément.

Lancia Nea concept - The Nea is Lancia's vision of the future luxury, middle class. Described as a 'tripmate' or travelling companion, it uses the latest computer and communications technology that makes information, communication and entertainment resources available at all times, with intelligent safety and guidance systems.Integration of the cabin glass area with the front and rear lamps, and the continuous flow of the roof pillars around the car, give the Nea a unique character.

Nissan Fusion concept - Nissan designers set out to develop an innovative style which adds emotional involvement to the technical strengths of Nissan's products.Their answer is a monosilhouette shape that smoothly encompasses hood, cabin and boot."Imagine a car," explains Stéphane Schwarz, studio chief designer at Nissan Design Europe, "a familiar, practical car, but imagine it covered in snow. Think about how the snow softens the lines of the car and distorts its shape, no matter how familiar that shape might be. That is what we are trying to achieve with Fusion. A four-door sedan is the most familiar shape of all. Fusion is our challenge to that orthodoxy. It says we have the confidence to reformulate even the most established of forms."The roof features two large glass areas that bring light into the car during the day. After dark, the mood inside the car can be altered using a coloured fibre optic system on the underside of the central roof panel.

Peugeot Prométhée concept - The Prométhée is a concept for a small sporty people-mover, with an innovative door layout, featuring a pillarless opening. The bodyside has influences from the Peugeot 402 estate 'Woody', but with the door inserts this time in satin aluminium. The rear of the vehicle has an agressive and mechanical theme, which contrasts with the more organic, friendly front, which appears to be a further development of the Peugeot family 'face'.

Peugeot City Toyz concepts - As part of the launch of the Peugeot Design Contest at the Paris show, Peugeot have created four concept vehicles under the title 'City Toyz': Vroomster, E-doll, Bobslid, and Kart Up. Shown here is the Vroomster, a tandem vehicle with the fuel tank between the drivers legs.

Peugeot 206CC - The 206CC is a 2+2 with a retractable rigid roof. CC stands for Coupe Cabriolet, but also for "Coup de Cour", or favorite.



Smart SportCoupe concept - This sporty two-seater is based on the smart roadster which was presented at the 1999 Frankfurt Autoshow, and also has a Suprex turbo engine, rear-wheel drive, and sequential six-speed manual transmission.As with the Smart Roadster which will come on the market in 2003, the main focus of the study is also on the modular design which is unique to Smart. The overall impression is thus above all characterized by the typical Smart two-tone, which particularly emphasizes the Tridion safety cell as a design element.

Volvo S60 - Combining sporty good looks with practical everyday needs, the low sloping roofline of the S60 echoes that of the C70 Coupe while the new Volvo family identity is immediately obvious. The protruding 'egg-crate' grille, the hood form which leads back into the cabin, pronounced rounded shoulders, short rear overhang, and distinctive tail lamps, mean that the stylish S60 could never be mistaken for anything other than a new Volvo.The bodyside of the S60 has a pronounced 'coke-bottle' form, which emphasizes the the wheels and adds to the sporty feeling."With the Volvo S60, we believe we have succeeded in combining the classic elements of Volvo design with a strong sporty influence in a very efficient package. With the S60 we wanted to create a piece of sculpture, a dynamic work that looks like it's moving even when it's standing still," comments Volvo's Design Director Peter Horbury.

Honda Civic - The Civic 5-door's styling is fresh and innovative with a strong sense of solidity and refinement. Closer to a 'one-box' design than previous generations, its distinctive front end is characterised by the short nose, and unique recessed grill form. The arching roofline defines a large glass area that ensures excellent visibility, but while roof height has been increased, visually it is not excessive and falls midway between standard C-segment hatchbacks and compact MPVs.

Citroen C5 - Designed at Citroen's Styling Centre at Vélizy, near Paris, the C5 is a fluid design, with strong integration of the hood and cabin forms. The emphasis is on the exceptionally spacious layout, with a long wheelbase, wide track and exceptional height.Huge, laid-back headlamps frame the bold new grille design, which strongly emphasises the Citroen logo.


Daewoo Kalos concept - The Kalos concept car is aimed at Toyota's popular Yaris subcompact and it's looking for a production slot two or three years in the future. The Kalos is a five-door hatch that might spawn a four-door and a three-door. Dark plastic panels are used almost excessively on an otherwise clean and strong design.

Hyundai Neos concept - Neos (for New Evolution Open Sports Car) is a dramatic new concept from Hyundai. The Neos isa butterfly-doored, four-cylinder-powered speedster with 250 hp and an F1-style sequential six-speed gearbox. The front end is dramatically agressive, which contrasts with the more retro, rounded rear end.


Volkswagen Passat update - The new Passat looks more purposeful from the front than the model it replaces, with a new front end that gives the car a more dynamic and refined appearance.The rear has distinctive redesigned light clusters and a new boot opening, while a chrome protection strip runs around the body and chromed window surrounds add an upmarket touch on certain models.

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