Where's the beef in Frankfurt?

Gavin Green sniffs out the manufacturers with something to boast about at the Frankfurt Motor Show

Frankfurt, the city, is like the sausage named after it: all substance and no style. Its motor show is the same - a big beefy event, usually full of hi-tech talk and bold new engineering solutions. It is the showcase of the German car industry, and, Germans being Germans, they quite like to brag about their successes. Mercedes and BMW, the twin jewels in the crown, have vast exhibition halls to themselves: Mercedes' four-storey palace must be about the size of the entire Earls Court exhibition centre.

The Japanese are all rather condescendingly clumped together in a hall smaller than either of the home makers' vast emporia. The main European rivals are also together, in a hall which must be a good half-mile from the entrance. There, this year, you will find Renault, Fiat, Volvo, Peugeot and Ford; there you will also find the stars of the 1995 Frankfurt Show.

And this year, new cars from Fiat and Renault are the stars because of the way they look, not because a German engineering boffin with a funny name claims to have reinvented the car. Fiat and Renault have brought some fun into Europe's biggest-selling but stodgiest, car class - the Escort/Golf, sector. Their new Bravo/Brava and Megane cars replace, respectively, the Tipo and the R19, and are cheerfully styled "distinctive", and different from the herd. They are also comprehensively different in three- and five- door guises, another novelty.

Fiat even gives its versions different names: Bravo is the three-door, Brava the five-door. The Fiat is probably the bolder looker and the better detailed (the interior, especially, has some novel and very clever features: including a "diffused" cabin light instead of a couple of ugly spots).

Yet the Renault is also significant, not least because the Megane platform will give birth to five distinct variants. Frankfurt gave us the five- door hatch and the three-door (called a Coupe); later we'll see a four- door saloon, cabriolet and, more radically, a people carrier.

Even Volvo, renowned for its anti-style school of car design, was getting into the cars-as-fashion act. Its new S4, which eventually supplants the dire 400-series, is aimed more at car lovers than the usual car-hating Volvo buyer.

The S4 is built in Holland, alongside its technical twin, the Mitsubishi Carisma. Volvo and Mitsubishi have a new sweetheart agreement rather like that which Rover and Honda used to have, and the Carisma/S4 is the first Euro-Japanese progeny.

Peugeot's new 406, which replaces the 405, isn't as radical, but it looks handsome in a conventional Peugeot sort of way. Less handsome but more radical-looking, is the revamped Ford Fiesta. It's not a brand new car, rather an old Fiesta bodyshell with a new nose, new tail and improved cabin. Just as important, it boasts a new Ford engine, a 1.25-litre four- cylinder co-developed by motorcycle makers Yamaha. This will eventually blossom into a whole family, set to power the lower-order Fords well into the next century. Ford is renowned for the crudity of its engines: insiders say the Yamaha motor is a great improvement.

Honda unveiled its new Civic, its most important and popular car - a hit in Europe, America and Japan. The current three- and four-Civic is an individualistic driver's car par excellence. The new one doesn't look as special. As Europe has started to rediscover family-car styling flair, Honda seems to be going the other way.

Lotus, the little Norfolk-based sports car company, has never been without flair; rather it is usually without money. The company is used to stumbling from crisis to crisis. At Frankfurt, though, it was celebrating, thanks to a new sports car called the Elise. But at pounds 20,000 it's expensive for a minimalist four-cylinder sportster.

Meanwhile back to the place where the Frankfurt Show goers are meant to start - the Mercedes and BMW stands. Mercedes, despite the vastness of its site, had nothing new, apart from the latest E-class, on sale in Europe since the summer and due in Britain next month.

BMW, on the other hand, unveiled a car of great importance: the new 5-series. But talk about party poopers; while Fiat and Renault were taking some styling risks, BMW was moving oh so cautiously. It is hard to imagine a more conservative upgrade of the fine old 5-series.

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF FRANKFURT '95

Buzz words Direct injection. A new type of petrol engine, unveiled by Japanese maker Mitsubishi, which promises much greater fuel economy. Mitsubishi says it will eventually supplant its diesel motors. Once other makers adopt it (very likely) it may do the same thing to all diesels.

Overwhelming Fiat and Renault are stars of the show with new family cars that bring some life to Europe's dullest car class (the Golf/Escort sector).

Underwhelming The new BMW 5-series, star of the home "team" and bound to be good to drive - all BMWs are. What a pity it looks so ordinary.

Little and large The Lotus Elise (right). Named after the grand-daughter of Bugatti boss Romano Artioli (Bugatti owns Lotus), Elise is the spiritual successor to the bare-and-basic Lotus Seven. There's nothing minimalist about its price of pounds 20,000, although sales expectations are a fairly minimal 750 a year.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

    £16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map