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.
Front-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.
I’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?