Compact green crossovers in spotlight at Paris auto show

Reuters News

9/25/2012 10:35:53 AM - Reuters News

By Paul Lienert

(Reuters) - Europe's crisis-hit automakers will try to lure environment-conscious families when they unveil a series of low-emission, compact crossover models at this week's biennial Paris auto show.

BMW's Active Concept Tourer and Mitsubishi Motors' Outlander PHEV are among at least eight "green crossovers", which combine features of sport utility vehicles (SUV) and passenger cars.

Luxury and performance still have their champions, while economy and value will be exemplified by the new Opel Adam city car from General Motors' European subsidiary and the redesigned Dacia Logan from Renault's Romanian affiliate.

Sandwiched between the supercars and sub-compacts, fans of mainstream models will get their first close-up look at such redesigned mass-market cars as Volkswagen's Golf and Ford Motor Co's Mondeo.

COMPACT CROSSOVERS

Crossovers will command much of the public's attention, particularly the ones that have been electrified to reduce carbon emissions.

The five-passenger BMW Concept Active Tourer is noteworthy not only for its plug-in hybrid powertrain — the three-cylinder gasoline engine and twin electric motors are adapted from BMW's i8 hybrid sports car — but for its new tall-roof hatchback design that borrows styling cues from other BMWs.

A version of the compact crossover may enter production in late 2013 as the 1 Series GT.

Mitsubishi unveiled its redesigned Outlander crossover in August at the Moscow auto show and is bringing to Paris a new plug-in hybrid version which it says is the world's first. The new Outlander PHEV goes on sale early next year in Europe.

More radically styled green crossover concept cars for Paris include Nissan Motor Co's TeRRA, with a hydrogen fuel cell furnishing power to the electric motors, and the Smart Forstars, a tiny battery-powered two-seater which the Daimler AG subsidiary dubs an SUC, for "sports utility coupe."

Even without electric motors and batteries, crossovers are still attracting plenty of attention.

Among the new production models that combine elements of conventional estates and more rugged utility vehicles are the Chevrolet Trax, the Mini Paceman and the Volvo V40 Cross Country. The Trax is a mini crossover intended for Europe and 140 other world markets, while the Paceman is a two-door companion to the Mini Countryman crossover.

The V40 Cross Country is a wagonlike compact sibling to the popular XC70 Cross Country.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE MODELS

Wagons or estate cars are still popular in Europe, especially among more affluent buyers. So it's no surprise that the Paris show will provide the launchpad for two new luxury "shooting brakes" — originally a British term for custom-built shooting carriages — one based on the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the other on the Porsche Panamera.

The emphasis on utility and environmental consciousness will not put off the makers of sports and high-performance models.

Three premium British two-seaters will be featured: the all-new Jaguar F-Type convertible, the redesigned Aston Martin DB9 in both coupe and convertible variants and the McLaren P1, a super-coupe that will arrive late next year, positioned above the company's $240,000 MP4-12C.

Struggling French automaker Peugeot SA, largely a purveyor of mass-market automobiles and high-mileage diesel engines, is also dipping its toe into the supercar pond with a high-performance concept called Onyx that draws inspiration, as well as a powerful diesel-hybrid powertrain, from the company's Le Mans endurance racecars.

(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)