One extreme to the other: Geneva puts the slump behind it

Supercars go bumper-to-bumper with city runarounds at the European industry's big event of the year. Sarah Arnott reports

The recession might never have happened as world premieres of supercars vie for attention with the smallest of micro-minis at the 81st Geneva Motor Show this week.

With petrol prices back in the spotlight as unrest in the Middle East sends oil soaring, and recovering European sales dipping under pressure from stalled consumer confidence, the world's car companies could be forgiven for slumping back into gloom.

But the mood in the industry is resolutely upbeat, judging by yesterday's show opening. Some 170 new models are to be unveiled in Geneva this week and an ever-strengthening focus on fuel efficiency and green technology to combat concerns over either climate change or rising petrol prices is evident.

New models from the likes of Volkswagen, Audi and Fiat – alongside European premieres from South Korean giants such as Hyundai – will be the ones to watch in the real world. But the show-stoppers in Geneva will be the supercars at one end of the spectrum and city cars at the other.

Perhaps most striking is the Agera R from Koenigsegg, which looks like something out of a science fiction fantasy and has a top speed of more than 180mph. The catch is the equally impressive price tag, which leaves little change from £700,000.

There are also two new models from Aston Martin, the Virage and a convertible Vantage. Alongside two black editions from Porsche, and the GranCabrio Sport from Maserati, will be the launch of the Ferrari FF, which has four seats and four-wheel drive (hence the FF moniker). In addition, Lamborghini is expected to show off the Aventador – the successor to its Murcielago – for the first time this week.

At the other end of the scale is the extra-small concept car from Tata Motors. Set to be unveiled this afternoon, it will be a similar size to the micro Nano, launched in India with much fanfare as the world's cheapest car in 2009. A European version will be considerably changed to meet higher standards on both safety and environmental impact.

For the extroverted inner-city motorist, there is the "night orange" edition of Smart's Fortwo, boasting "exclusive orange metallic paintwork". It is a "born attention-grabber", according to the company.

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