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The 10 most interesting cars at the Paris auto show

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

1. McLaren P1

The car of the show, though it’s still a prototype and doesn’t even have a final name yet. The production P1 should break cover next year, and when it does, it will be a true supercar, right up there with the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron and Ferrari Enzo, pushing 800 horsepower with more available as part of a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) developed through Formula 1 racing. “The P1 will be the result of 50 years of racing and road-car heritage,” says McLaren’s Ron Dennis. “Twenty years ago, we raised the supercar-performance bar with the McLaren F1, and our goal with P1 is to redefine it once again.”

2. Volkswagen Golf – 7th Generation

This is undoubtedly the most important car of the show – the current Golf is by far the best-selling car in Europe, and this seventh-generation edition won’t rock the boat too much to affect that. It’s a bit bigger and more spacious on an all-new platform, while also being 100 kg lighter and even more frugal on both gas and diesel. It will come to Europe’s showrooms in January, but we’ll have to wait at least another year into 2014 before it comes over to Canada.

3. Mercedes-Benz Concept B-Class Electric Drive

Mercedes is debuting three electric cars at Paris, including the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive and the Smart Brabus Electric Drive, but the B-Class is the most important of the trio. It would be a direct competitor in size to the Nissan Leaf, but has a claimed range of 200 km, which is 20 per cent more than the Leaf. And so it goes, as electric cars slowly but surely begin to offer drivers the range and versatility they’re looking for if EVs are ever to be an alternative to internal combustion.

4. Jaguar F-Type

The prize for sexiest debut at the show goes to the gorgeous Jaguar F-Type, a smaller and sportier convertible for its current lineup that will come with V6 and V8 engine options. It takes styling cues from the C-X16 concept that we saw earlier this year at the Toronto auto show, but loses that car’s roof in favour of getting back to Jaguar’s open roots. If that’s a concern, don’t worry – there’s rumoured to be a coupe in the works. Jaguar wants this car to stick around for a long time.

5. BMW Concept Active Tourer

Believed to be the prelude to a 1-Series GT, the Active Tourer concept is a plug-in hybrid that is also BMW’s first front-wheel-drive car. Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine is basically half of the traditional 3-litre straight-six, but it’s no slouch when it’s paired with a lithium-ion electric system – BMW says it’s good for 190 hp, and zero-to-100 km/h in less than eight seconds. The Active Tourer doesn’t look as radical as the mostly-transparent i3, but that also means it’s more realistic of the design direction of the 1-Series.

6. Peugeot Onyx Concept

It looks like just another one-off supercar, but the Onyx Concept is actually a study in sustainability. The entire cabin “pod” is lined with 100-per-cent recyclable felt – including the floor, steering wheel and even the seats – which is padded with additional foam where needed for comfort and soundproofing. The console is made from old newsprint that’s been pressure-treated into wooden “logs”. It’s good to know there’s a future for all those old Wheels sections once you’re done reading them. Oh, and if you’re feeling good now about how this will save the planet, it’s powered by a 3.7L V8 turbodiesel that’ll make some 600 hp.

7. Audi A3 Sportback/S3

Sorry, but it doesn’t look like either the new A3 five-door sportback or its sexier 300 hp three-door S3 stablemate (shown above) are coming to North America. Maybe that’s because Americans don’t like to buy hatchbacks, even under another name, but that shouldn’t stop it coming to Canada. At least we don’t think so. Apparently, there’s a new A3 sedan in the works that might come over here instead, which could also be available with the 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder S package. Maybe.

8. Nissan TeRRA concept

Is this just another wild concept, or is Nissan actually onto something here? The TeRRA is powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell, which has many watchers sniffing in disbelief, but the company claims the stack now costs just 15 per cent of the price of the 2005 version. Hmm – getting affordable. The two axles are powered independently by separate electric motors so there’s no bulky transmission shaft between them and more space for passengers. Hmm – greater comfort. The console instrumentation is actually a tablet that the driver can remove and carry around to use like an iPad or similar, and to give information about the car. Hmm – today’s technology in a new use. And it’s high and versatile and not expected to be used off-road, just like most other SUVs. Hmm – realistic. Is this the future after all?

9. Kia Pro-cee’d

It’s a strange name but a familiar look as Kia unveils the Pro-cee’d as its hot hatch for 2013. With any luck, Kia will accept that most of us can’t spell Pro-cee’d and will just call it the latest Forte. Mechanically, it’s identical to the top-selling Elantra of sister company Hyundai, which is known as the i30 in Europe. There’ll surely be lots of affordable choice for engines and options, so expect to see plenty of these Kias on the road here in a year – whatever they’re called.

10. Smart Forstars concept

Well, here’s something different. The Forstars is supposedly named for its giant moonroof, but we all know that really it’s telling its drivers they’ll be stars if they’re seen with it. The tiny electric car is not quite so tiny as a conventional Smart – a full metre longer, which is the length of a Mini – and its forte is in the projector built into the hood: movies can be played from an iPhone or similar device and beamed onto any nearby wall. Like the other Smarts, that’s maybe kinda limited in its appeal, but totally cool.

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