Though the hypercars and out-there concepts might get a lot of the attention, the Geneva Motor Show is also the place to see the cars that we're more likely to see on the road – both now and in the near future. The chances of seeing catching a glimpse of a Zonda trundling down to the local shops might be unlikely, but I'd be happy to see any of the cars I list here. There really are some exciting prospects in store over the next 12 months – some long overdue!
The 2012 Geneva show has proved to be a vintage year for new models from the mainstream manufacturers. The design mojo seems to have been rekindled in several companies who appeared to be using cereal boxes as inspiration for a number of years, and thankfully in general there were far less silver cars than normal. Except on this stand… But it is Mercedes, so we can give them a bit of Silver Arrows leeway.
And what about what we might be driving in a couple of years time? This kind of styling is likely, and sooner rather than later it would appear. We're used to seeing these kind of futuristic impressions of what cars will be like, but I think the difference is that now these cars are appearing on the forecourts and in the public's hands, rather than just sitting on stands as concepts. It's an exciting time for motor vehicles, especially as car makers face up to the challenges of both the environment and cost of raw materials.
That said, hot hatches are alive and well, and enjoying something of a renaissance. There were some great examples at Geneva, such as the Opel OPC (marketed under the VXR performance brand for the Vauxhall equivalent in the UK). The hot Astra has a turbocharged 2-litre direct injection engine developing 276hp and top speed is 155mph.
In the VW corner is the new Golf R, looking very purposeful: it features VW's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and an even more aggressive bodykit than the GTI: it's lower and more powerful than the GTI or the previous R32.
By its side was the drop-top version of the latest iteration of that genre-defining name, the Golf GTI. The cabriolet version is the most powerful production Golf convertible ever, featuring the same 2-litre turbo as the regular GTI.
Peugeot seem to be injecting botox into most of their range recently – everything seems to appear just a little too tall or a little tall wide to me… The 208 GTI Concept was unveiled in Geneva, and even if it's not as svelte as the outgoing model at least it retains the same kind of hot-hatch poise in GTI form. Power and handling should be to the usual terrier-like standard though, with its compact 115bhp 1.6-litre e-HDI engine.
Another firm who seemed to have lost their way over the last decade were Renault – in the mid-range segment at least. Meganes went from being kit-car rally icons to large-bottomed boxes: but this! The RS looks awesome; squat and aggressive, it has an uprated exhaust system, power steering and rear diffuser, Brembo brakes, and a 2-litre turbo unit pushing out around 250hp.
New Beetles are a contentious topic: they're just not typically seen as being worthy of the name's heritage. This is the VW e-Bugster, an electric-powered concept with a chopped top and revised front and rear which I think reinvigorates the otherwise a bit too cutesy New Beetle appearance. LED running lights and cool wheels help complete the look – and 114 electric horses also go down well.
I think that Citroen have stolen the French design crown recently: maybe only one of the Big Three in France is allowed to design attractive cars at any specific time? Another concept, the DS4 Racing has been developed by CItroen's World Rally Championship team – 256bhp is tucked under another aggressive looking treatment at the front, and the DS4 features a whole lot of carbon fibre aero parts. The car has been lowered by 35mm and sits on big 19-inch rims; stopping power is provided by 380mm brake disks.
Chevrolet brought their TRU 140S concept over to the European party: based on a Cruze floorplan, the four-seat coupé is unfortunately just a technology demonstration at the moment – which is a shame, as it's something more deserving of the Chevy badge than a lot of the other current models…
The Ford Fiesta ST is destined to come on stream early next year: it's been five years since the last ST, and as with all the other hot hatches on show power and handling is up. Ford have been pounding round the de facto European test track of instant-credibility that is the Nürburgring, and this will be the first Fiesta ST that should see an official launch in North America.
The ST looks great – but then even better when it's breathed on by M-Sport. This is the WRC Fiesta currently battling with Citroen on the world's rally stages.
I think it's fair to include minnows Dacia here, who can get a bad rep. This is the racing version use by F1 champion Alain Prost in the Andros ice-racing series in France: if it's good enough for Alain, it's good enough for us…
We've got to wait until this Summer to see them on the road – and we've been waiting three years since the concepts – but the GT86 is still generating plenty of excitement. Sportscar performance and handling at an affordable price is the goal, and the generally accepted view is that it's going to deliver that and more. Now people just want to get their hands on it!
The FT86 model will be getting an imminent race debut as well: always a good thing, especially when the target is the Nürburging-based VLN series. A Japanese crew are entered in this Gazoo Racing prototype, which is incorporating its anti-spy shot dazzle design into the race livery.
The Subaru sibling to the FT86, the BRZ, was also given its European debut: the first version to ship will be the 'hot', top-spec model, followed by an entry-level cheaper option and then finally a stripped out, trackday-prepped variant.
Its 2-litre, 200bhp flat-four boxer engine was proudly displayed next to the BRZ – and the new Impreza hatchback, which I can't bring myself to show. The fact it's still four-wheel-drive is as positive as I can be.
Still, there's the Camaro! The car is getting an official dealer launch in the UK this year, which will make otherwise tame Chevy dealers a far more enticing place to visit. A special edition, 45th-anniversary model in Carbon Flash Black is also being released.
In the past I've felt that Hyundai's Coupés have never quite hit the spot: they've always had an awkward angle that's ruined the overall effect. But with the Genesis Coupé, I think they may well have nailed it. With looks that aren't a million miles away from the FT86, the 3.8-litre V6-engined version has a handy 348bhp, and an R-Spec model will be available with adjustable MacPherson struts. Impressive.
Mini showed off the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works: four-wheel-drive is added, and about 10 feet of height as it is based on the Countryman 'Mini'. However, it does get 218hp from its turbocharged 1.6 engine, and its AWD system is so good you can drive it up walls! Amazing!
At the more opulent end of the market, Rolls Royce revealed its new Phantom series: LED headlamps make it, if anything, even more Thunderbirds; an eight-speed gearbox will waft you (that's an official Rolls Royce term, by the way) to enormous speeds courtesy of the V12 direct-injection engine.
Heading into grand touring territory, BMW offered two new models at the show: firstly, the new M6 Coupé. The M-Power-tweaked, twin-turbo-charged V8 propels the M6 to 100kph in a little over four seconds (560bhp is on tap), and optional carbon ceramic brakes mean you can stop again in a similarly quick time. The elegant lines of the M6 offset its size – or complement it in fact. A proper Grand Touring car for the road, in the old school sense of the term.
The other big BMW model was the 6-series Gran Coupé, the four-door, luxurious brother of the M6. Three engine sizes are available – depending on the emotional state of potential passengers the sensible option would naturally be the 450bhp twin-turbo V8.
Mazda have a very attractive line-up of models at the moment, and their Takeri concept does nothing but add to that. With lines that are more than a match for the BMWs, the Takeri takes the diesel option for motive power, and adds in a hatful of tech: SKYACTIV transmission and an i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.
Merc's new A-Class offers a refreshed take on what was previously a rather squat mini-MPV. It integrates the new Mercedes nose styling, which is quite imposing for such a small car but does give it more presence.
Staying in the smaller class, BMW presented a 125i beefed up with an M Performance pack: interestingly, the front splitter and lip clip onto existing M Sport parts, though this pack does provide a brand new rear diffuser. This 125i also had the 19" M Performance wheels with slotted brake rotors. There's also the option of an M Performance steering wheel complete with multi-function display and shift lights.
Audi introduced their new A3 in Geneva, but it doesn't hold a candle to the A1 2.0 T Quattro it shared a stage with. LImited to a production run of just 333 cars, the extra weight of the AWD system is countered by the small car format, so 0-100kph arrives in less than six seconds. The 2-litre TFSI engine produces 256hp. It's another car that looks a whole lot of fun.
The Renault Twingo Gordini revives a classic name from France's car manufacturing past: Gordini were a Formula 1 constructor in the '50s before being bought by Renault as an engine tuner, and Gordini-powered Renaults competed at Le Mans in the '60s. Renault started using the name again a couple of years ago, for both hot Twingo and Clios models; Renault were also showing off a Twingo RS to match the Megane RS.
A couple more concepts: this is Nissan's Invitation. Literally. It's called an Invitation. So, not the most exciting name for sure, but if nothing else I like the LED running lights. The Invitation is due to go into production in the UK next year.
Chevrolet had another concept shipped over from Detroit: the 130R. The name evokes thoughts of the awesome corner of the same name at the Suzuka track in Japan, though the small 150hp 1.4-litre engine isn't quite as shouting and the body shape takes a bit of getting used to. One point of note is that both this car and the 140S display crossed-flags badges: something that is now more synonymous with the Corvette but used to be displayed on any sport-orientated Chevy.
I'll wrap up with a selection of the more futuristic vehicles on show in Geneva. The Kia Track'ster concept's concept is all in the name: the all-wheel-drive, 250hp souped-up Soul is designed to be the all-you-need practical solution for blasting round your local race-track: an integrated tool bay and spare-tyre well in place of the rear seats is complemented by dedicated storage space for race suits, helmets and gloves. It is actually quite serious about performance as well: ref the 250hp, turbo-charged 2-litre engine and 14-inch Brembo disks. Hilarious!
Smart had a whole host of new vehicles on display, including the all-electric EV pick-up with a bike-carrying plug-in on the rear deck.
The Toyota FT-Bh does look like something out an animated film about grumpy fish, but the fact it has a pinch of Citroen DS about it (to my warped mind at least) means it's worthy of mention. The FT-Bh is an ultra-lightweight design of just 800kgs and has a Hybrid Synergy Drive which is capable of 134.5mpg (no, this is not a car where you discuss the 0-60mph time…) and is able to use both electric and compressed natural gas in tandem with its supplementary 1-litre petrol engine.
Again, Citroen DS? Just me? Especially with the part-covered rear wheels. Like the FT-Bh, the Suzuki G70 is super lightweight (this time just 730kg) but has a small three-cylinder petrol engine. The G70 might have a design that only its mother could love, but again it shows that the car manufacturers are serious about making affordable, environmentally-efficient vehicles.
Moon-lander crossed with insect, the Renault Twizy is now approaching production and aims to be not just a cheap electric car but one of the cheapest cars you can buy in general, which is quite something.
Finally, the EDAG Light Car, which to me looks like the cleaning robots from Wall-E. The car's premise is to encourage car-sharing, as the colour of the car changes to indicate both its electric charging and also leasing status – the Light Car could theoretically be booked and accessed by a smartphone app. The tall interior is almost taxi-like for accessibility, and the mostly-transparent doors project patterns onto the ground to show the opening angle. Okay, we might still all want the GT86, but would it be so bad to have this as well?!