All you need to know about the Geneva Motor Show 2018

From diesel bans to driverless cars the motor industry meets in the Swiss city with existential battles raging on several fronts

Expect something of a siege mentality at this week’s Geneva motor show, which opens to the media on Tuesday. The motor industry is facing an unprecedented number of battles on several fronts.

The Swiss show, on its traditional neutral ground, is always the most important European motor show of the year, if not physically the biggest.

For every new slice of shiny metal, though, there will be furtive, stage-left conversations about experiments on monkeys, public health, congestion, and looming bans both for diesel cars in city centres (something that will especially have the German car makers up in arms) and eventual outright bans on the sale of any new car that’s not at least a hybrid of some sort.

The motoring world, it seems, is trying to join the #MeToo movement. That's nice, but it will be as nothing compared to the ramifications of the #NoDiesel movement

Those bans are a mere dozen years away (Ireland’s is proposed for 2030) which means that the new cars you will see at Geneva this year have only one-and-a-half replacement cycles to go before they must be, by legislative fiat, all-hybrid or all-electric. Worth keeping in the back of your mind when the promises of big sales figures and high-octane performance come rolling in…


Volvo XC40 wins Car of the Year 2018

The show kicks off with the announcement on Monday afternoon of Europe's car of the year. The winner of the presitigious prize for 2018 is the new Volvo XC40. Good news for the Swedes as they pipped the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Seat Ibiza, Audi A8 and Alfa Romeo Stelvio to win the top prize.

A jury of 60 journalists from 23 countries across Europe  cast their votes on the latest new cars to arrive on the market. The award announcement is the opening salvo of the Geneva show. After it, the covers start to come off the gleaming new metal on the stands.

Alpine heat

There will at least be one proper, affordable (relatively) sports car at the show, without a hybrid battery in sight, and that’s Alpine with its new A110. The Renault-owned brand, revived in late 2017, will appear with its first proper production models in Geneva (a super-light ‘Pure’ version and a more luxurious ‘Légende’).

We're still waiting for confirmation as to when and if the Alpine will be sold in Ireland (and if it's stopped catching fire at random intervals - Top Gear's Chris Harris had to bail out fast when a test car caught light during filming) but even if it doesn't come here, we can claim it as one of our own. Corkman Martin Twohig was the A110's chief engineer.

Vantage point

Aston Martin has already had a busy start to 2018, launching the stunning new Vantage coupe, as well as a convertible DB11 Volante. And it’s even managed to turn a profit in the past few days, the first that the company has made since 2010. Will it celebrate by showing a production-ready version of the DBX, its first SUV model, at the show? That’s what the rumour mill says…

Audi's big show-floor show-off will be the new A6. Predictably, it looks much like a shrunken version of the new A8, which is perhaps a bit predictable, but it's still a very handsome car, and looks like a worthy competitor for the BMW 5 Series and Merc E-Class.

It gets the multi-screen cabin from the A8 too, and all models at launch will be mild-hybrids, with 48-volt motors backing up petrol and diesel engines. Audi may also bring along a production version of its E-Tron quattro all-electric SUV, possibly to spoil Jaguar's I-Pace launch at the show. And might the hot SQ2 also put in an appearance?

Beemers aplenty

BMW will launch its M8 front-engined super-coupe at the show. We've already seen the standard new 8 Series and the GTE racing version, so the 600hp M8 should be a perfect blend of the two, really. There'll also be a concept version of the inevitable four-door 8 Series Gran Coupe. The new X4 coupe-SUV, based on the impressive new X3, will also be there but good luck telling it apart from the old one. Oh, and the new Z4 convertible, platform-sharing with the new Toyota Supra, will also put in an appearance and it will come as a high-performance hybrid.

Fancy something more practical? How about the new Citroen Berlingo, which is now bigger (there's a long wheelbase version), comes with seven-seats, and has SUV styling, plus lots of safety tech from the C4 Picasso. Did we say Picasso? We mean the C4 SpaceTourer, as Citroen will use Geneva to re-brand all its MPVs, doubtless so that it no longer has to pay any licencing fees to the Picasso estate. No, not that kind of estate, the other kind.

Ferrari will definitely have its new 488 Pista, the track-focused rival to the likes of the Porsche 911 GTS RS at the show. A tweaked 488, it comes with 710hp and a trimmed kerb-weight, so will essentially be a leather-lined, red-painted cruise missile. Will that be Ferrari's only car at the show?

Fiat will be at the show, but it's quite possible that its only offering will be a tarted-up Tipo hatch with an S-Design bodykit. It is the 30th anniversary of the Tipo badge, though, so there might be something a little more special in Fiat's plans.

Time to focus

Ford should be revealing the new Focus hatchback at Geneva, but instead seems to be showing up with the facelifted Edge and an ‘Active’ quasi-SUV version of the titchy Ka+. Why not bring your most important European model to the most important European car show? Why, indeed? Possibly because Ford has plans to make a bigger publicity splash with the new Focus, away from the noise and competition of a big show.

Now, what's a GFG Style, you ask? Why it's yet another electric car startup, we yawn. Hang on a tic, though. This is a startup started up by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, ousted from his own Italdesign company by Volkswagen last year. With a 75kWh battery doing the powering, it's clearly a notional Tesla rival, but few new cars come with this sort of pedigree. Interesting.

Honda will have its new CR-V in both hybrid and regular forms, its twin electric car concepts, and a racing version of the Civic Type-R on the stand. And a hybrid Civic, too? Just possible, seeing as a new hybrid Insight model has just been launched in the US but isn't coming to Europe.

Electricity in the air

Hyundai will be pushing hard on the alternative fuel button in Geneva. As well as an all-electric Kona with a range of up to 470km, it will also show off the Nexo hydrogen fuel cell SUV, the replacement for the low-volume, experimental ix35 hydrogen car. Hyundai is still very serious about pushing hydrogen power in Europe, but will it make an announcement about investments in fuelling stations at Geneva? Oh, and the new Santa Fe? Yup, that will be in Geneva, but it's mostly a diesel model so expect the focus to be on the zero-emissions models.

VW-owned Italdesign will be at the show with its Zeruno convertible concept car, which comes with a price tag of more than €1-million. Hang on, wasn't Italdesign founded and owned by Giorgetto Giugiaro before VW bought it and ousted him? We sense a fight coming on…

Jaguar’s big noise at the show will be noiseless - the production version of the much-hyped I-Pace electric SUV. 400hp, 500km range and fast charging times if you can find a 150kW charger (hint; you can’t). Will it be a new dawn for Jag, as was the E-Type at Geneva in 1961?

Jeep will show off the new Wrangler (an ever-popular model, even in Europe), the Compass (its Qashqai rival) and might just give us a peep at the new Grand Wagoneer luxury Range Rover rival.

Sowing the Ceeds of Stinger

Kia will be launching the Stinger-influenced new Ceed hatchback at the show, and will likely bring along the spacious estate version too. We've already driven a prototype and pronounced it good, so consider this the sensible, affordable corner of glamorous Geneva. The plugin hybrid version of the Niro crossover will also make its European debut.

Land Rover has a big anniversary in 2018, its 70th, and is planning something properly special for Geneva - a small production run of two-door Range Rover coupes, based on the full-size Rangie, and harking back to the 1970 original Range Rover (which only got its back doors in the 1980s). While it may not be the most future-relevant model in Geneva (although it will have a plugin hybrid model) expect a queue for the ignition keys when it's launched. Only 999 will be built and they could cost as much as €300,000 each.

Lexus is one of the few companies that could, without much pruning of model ranges, actually duck under the barrier of the 2030 diesel and petrol ban, and it’s going to create an entirely new model range at Geneva — the UX. It’s a compact SUV, a rival to the Volvo XC40, BMW X1, and Audi A3 and it looks like a Lexus RX and a Hyundai Kona had some sort of romantic assignation. Not pretty, then, but expect some very impressive hybrid economy and emissions figures, thanks to sharing a platform with Toyota’s C-HR.

Mazda will have a quiet show - just the European version of the recently updated 6 saloon and estate, but there will also be a chance to see the Vision coupe (which is stunning) and the Kai concept which previews the new Mazda 3.

McLaren, which is now much more successful as a car maker than a Grand Prix team, will bring along its P15 Senna, named for the most iconic of F1 drivers, who took his three world titles with McLaren. Challenging to look at, the Senna has serious performance and can hit 100km/h in just 2.8 seconds.

Busy time for Mercedes

Mercedes-Benz will be one of the busiest brands at the show. It’s a chance for European buyers to get a good first look at the new A-Class hatchback, which will be on sale here by the summer. Plus there are big updates for the C-Class saloon and the Maybach super-luxury version of the S-Class. Oh, and the big, square new G-Class gets a European roll-out too. But the big star will be the new AMG GT four-door coupe, which will be Merc’s Porsche Panamera rival, with F1-inspired hybrid tech and an 800hp power output.

Mitsubishi will bring an updated Outlander SUV to the show, and the PHEV plugin hybrid version will get a new petrol engine, and an updated electric motor. Will this one be able to do more than 30mpg on the motorway, though?

Tiny Morgan often manages to produce a Geneva show surprise, and it might do so again this year, as it's been trailing its new Aero GT, a replacement for the old Aero 8, which once again will mix Bertie Wooster looks with Buck Rodgers tech underneath.

Peugeot, and we might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, may just have the star of the whole show on its stand - the new 508. While the four-door saloon market continues to crumble under an SUV assault, Peugeot has decided to go all-out with the new 508, giving it a seriously sexy shape, a high-tech interior, frameless doors, and a practical fastback boot. Think of it as a French VW Arteon, and then think of buying one instead of that SUV.

Birthday gifts from Porsche

Porsche, like Land Rover, is celebrating its 70th birthday at Geneva, and it's giving the current 991 version of the 911 a big send off with a new 520hp hardcore GT3 RS model. It's a car whose chassis has been honed by rallying legend Walter Rorhl, so expect it to be brilliant. And for the future? There's just a chance that we might see a production-ready version of the all-electric Mission-E sports saloon.

Renault's stand will be dominated by its EZ-Go concept car about which we currently know… very little, other than that it will be electric and largely autonomous. Last year at the Frankfurt show, Renault showed a concept that could become part of your house. Could the EZ-GO turn into a toaster, maybe?

Rimac, the Croation electric supercar maker (the one that almost did for Richard Hammond in yet another firey crash) will be on hand with its second generation model, which could bost as much as 1,500hp from its electric motors.

A new VW Group brand

On a more practical performance note, Seat will be showing off its new Cupra models, which now sit separate to the rest of the Seat range with their own special branding and badging. The Spanish AMG journey kicks off with a hot 300hp Ateca, and a prototype of a super-hot Cupra Ibiza. The seven-seat Tarraco will be there, and an all-electric E-Racer version of the Cupra Leon.

Skoda’s Vision X concept, meanwhile, is a preview of a third SUV family for the Czech brand, smaller than the Karoq, and aimed at the likes of the Renault Captur and Citroen C3 Aircross. Expect plugin hybrid and possibly all-electric versions. Of more immediate import is an updated Fabia hatchback, which is just a facelift and not an all-new version using the Seat Ibiza’s chassis.

Ssangyong will have a new Musso pickup, based on the equally new Rexton SUV (which has been garnering tentatively decent reviews) and a concept version of a new Qashqai rival, while speaking of minority interests, Subaru will have a new Viviz concept car, called the Viviz Performance STI Concept, which previews a part-electric hot Impreza estate. Did we say minority interest? We meant yes please and can we have it in blue with gold wheels?

Supra returns

Rivalling all-comers for star of the show will be the all-new Toyota Supra, Toyota’s first full-on high-performance coupe since the late nineties. Based on a platform share with the BMW Z4, the new Supra will be a hot hybrid, with a reported 335hp, and a 3.8sec 0-100km/h time. Toyota will have both a production version and a big-winged racing concept of the Supra at the show. Fancy something more sensible? How about the new Auris (which could potentially be rebadged as a Corolla) which gets the C-HR’s chassis and a new 2.0-litre hybrid engine, plus much more swoopy styling.

Volkswagen, still keen to deflect attention from diesel issues, will bring along the ID Vizzion concept, the fourth member of its ID electric car concept family. This one is a five-metre long luxury saloon, fully autonomous, which VW has even suggested could be used by those too old or too young to have a drivers’ licence. It gets a 655km electric range and you can think of it as an all-electric Phaeton replacement. Sort of.

Volvo’s other brand

When is a Volvo not a Volvo? When it’s a Polestar. The Swedish brand has been less than keen on big motorshows of late, but it will bring its gorgeous new Polestar-branded hybrid coupe, with 600hp, to Geneva. Want to buy one? You can’t, but you can lease it like a mobile phone…

And now something truly sensible. As well as the 600hp Polestar coupe, Volvo will bring along its handsome, practical new V60 estate. Platform sharing with the XC60 SUV, this new wagon looks gorgeous, is actually roomier in the boot than the massive V90 estate, and has a new 340hp T6 Twin Engine plugin hybrid version.

All of that, plus some surprises and, for the first time, a ban on ‘hostesses’ or ‘booth babes’ - the practice of placing attractive, scantily clad women next to cars on the motor show stand to try and garner some tabloid coverage.

The motoring world, it seems, is trying to join the #MeToo movement. That’s nice, but it will be as nothing compared to the ramifications of the #NoDiesel movement. Your 12 year countdown starts next week in Geneva.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring