/ Motoring

Carmakers are rewriting the rules in two new models

Geneva Motor Show

I’ve been going to the Geneva Motor Show for the last three years; it’s our first look at some of the new models to hit UK roads. This year two cars particularly caught my attention for their untraditional approaches.

One of the most talked about cars of the Geneva Motor Show was the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, which is the most significant release for the German brand in modern times. Why? Because the compact MPV (or people carrier) is BMW’s first front-wheel-drive car, moving away from the rear-wheel-drive formula that the brand is so well known for.

BMW’s front-wheel-drive car

The switch is a move to attract new customers who might not be fans of the impracticalities of rear-wheel drive, which is trickier when roads are wet, icy or snow layered.

BMW 2 SeriesFront-wheel-drive has more benefits than ease of driving in difficult conditions, though, especially for a small MPV like the 2 Series Active Tourer. The mechanical benefit of not having to run the power from an engine at the front to the wheels at the back is a more useable interior space. A roomier feeling cabin, more leg- and foot-space for rear passengers and the flexibility of sliding rear seats are all results of reverting to front-wheel power.

And it’s clearly a very big deal for BMW and it’s heftily-sized European dealer network – getting close to the car over the two days proved difficult, as suited showroom owners were chaperoned by BMW personnel around every inch of the 2 Series Active Tourer to prepare them for the sales pitch they’ll be delivering to customers from September.

Renault’s city car

While the 2 Series Active Tourer marks a significant time in BMW’s history, it’s not the car I’m most excited about driving later this year.

Renault TwingoI’ve saved that very high compliment to – prepare to be surprised – a Renault. The new Twingo city car has been developed in collaboration with BMW’s fierce German rival, Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

The Twingo is almost a complete reversal of the move made by BMW. While every other city car available at the moment has an engine upfront powering the front wheels, Renault’s flipped the powertrain on its head, mounting the engine under the boot floor to power the rear wheels.

Again, there’s a practical benefit for buyers. City car buyers want something that’s easy to drive, manoeuvrable and has an interior that maximises the little space available. The Twingo has a high seating position, so you get a good field of view over the road. The short bonnet and large windscreen also boost visibility.

The lack of an engine, radiator and other running gear at the front also allows for more turning angle of the front wheels. The result is a turning circle that’s a metre smaller than any rival, so it will be incredibly easy to dart through traffic, parallel park and U-turn. And for driving enthusiasts like me, a small, lightweight rear-driven car should be good fun on the open road.

Which car are you most looking forward to seeing in the near future?

George Mowat-Brown says:
7 March 2014

Rob suggests:
‘ for driving enthusiasts like me, a small, lightweight rear-driven car should be good fun on the open road.’
And I have one – a Singer Chamois (posh Hillman Imp), it fits the description perfectly!

R. Simpson. says:
5 October 2014

I had a Sunbeam Stiletto many years ago and it went like a rocket ( well, for back then it did, with it’s high revving engine.)
Wish l still had it and it would be worth a few Bob now.
Same for the AH Sprite l had back then.
I remember being caught up in a road block on my way to do a site inspection.
The old bill were inspecting all verhicles, for an escaped prisoner and when they got to mine, the copper saw that l didn’t have an opening boot, so he crawled into it from behind the two seats.
Those were the days.

John says:
7 March 2014

When I clicked the link to this article I was looking forward to reading about the new ideas that would soon be gracing a new generation of cars.

While the Renault seems like a genuine attempt to repackage the traditional layout of a car the title suffers from a bout of the hyperboles when you suggest that making a car front wheel drive is a ground breaking event. Fair enough it’s a first for BMW and it’ll be interesting to see how they try and convince people it fits in with their pretty rigid ethos on carmaking but saying it rewrites the rulebook seems a bit of a stretch. Saying that it doesn’t look too bad.

Phil says:
8 March 2014

I thought BMW made the Mini. Is that not FWD?

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 March 2014

This new Twingo will remind me of the old Renault quatre-chevaux of my childhood. You still see some of them kicking about in France. Renault are going back to an old idea that worked and presumably improving on it with new technology. Good for them.

Rob has not mentioned whether or not these new cars come with spare wheels. It is clear from previous Conversations that some motorists see these as essential and hopefully the manufacturers are taking note of what customers want.

Thanks Rob. Please keep us informed about spare wheels when new or revised models are introduced.

It would be interesting to know more about Which?’s view of ContiSeal and any similar tyres that already contain sealant. I guess these are more effective than using sealant to repair punctured tyres, and the price could go down if they were popular and there was competition.

I can see the attraction of compact cars but when there is no room to carry a spare wheel or maintenance (e.g. replacing a timing belt or even changing a bulb) becomes difficult and expensive, I begin to wonder if we are making much progress.