The car industry might be facing the chaos caused by economic meltdown in Europe and a slowing of sales in China, but nonetheless car manufacturers put on a brave face at this years Paris motor show.
There were plenty of new products, ranging from staples, such as the new Ford Mondeo, face-lifted Ford Fiesta, seventh-generation VW Golf and latest Renault Clio, through to innovative offerings such as the BMW Sport Active Tourer and the Vauxhall Adam.
The Renault Clio aside, however, French brands had an unusually quiet home show a sign, perhaps, that their focus is finally shifting beyond their domestic market and towards more lucrative sectors outside of Europe.
Still, there are plenty of interesting opportunities for those of you heading into a showroom in 2013. Here are our highlights.
Unveiled at a spectacular event featuring a performance by singer Lana del Rey, the Jaguar F-type could be the sports car that the brand has been waiting for. Itll be launched as a convertible, although a coupe is already in the works. The F-type is more compact, more agile and more focused than the current XK and Jaguars top brass is going all out to claim it is a pure sports car.
Its certainly a thing of beauty, perhaps the best example yet of how well chief designer Ian Callum understands the lines of a modern Jag although hes indulged a definite nod to the beloved E-Type around the new cars haunches and taillights.
It wont be cheap, though. If youre thinking of one instead of a Porsche Boxster, youre going to have to keep saving a little longer. However, even at 58,500 for the entry-level V6, 67,500 for the supercharged six-cylinder and 79,950 for the 488bhp V8, its easy to see it selling. However, at that sort of money, those buying it might well still be a little older than Jaguar would like.
Read more on the Jaguar F-type
Forget the name: Vauxhall is trying a whole new trick with its new small premium city car and the Citroen DS3, Fiat 500 and Mini rival is one of the neatest new cars at the Paris show.
GM design chief Mark Adams has done a good job of making a modern, chic, cute and funky three-door. Just as well, according to one Vauxhall veteran at the launch because we didnt have retro to fall back on. The cabin, meanwhile, is a clever mix, blending regular Vauxhall switches with a more premium dashboard finish than youll find in many a Corsa.
The customisation is another big step for Vauxhall, with around 30,000 combinations of spec available. Itll also be interesting to see how the post-sale modifications including new wheel trims and a totally different dashboard finish are adopted by customers. In the longer run, we can foresee many a used Adam getting a fresh shot of personalisation by its new owner.
The key will be whether UK buyers are willing to spend from 11,255 on a city car that doesnt tick the retro boxes. However, Vauxhall sources are optimistic the Adam will find a modern niche between the Fiat and the Mini and we can see where theyre coming from.
Read more on the Vauxhall Adam.
Launches dont come much bigger in France than a new Renault Clio, and the new supermini made its public debut in style. Chief designer Laurens van den Acker says he wanted to make a sensual small car We are French, after all, said the Dutch car designer and he has definitely stretched supermini curves to extremes.
Hes also pushed the boundaries on branding, with perhaps the largest front grille badge ever seen on any production car.
The Renault Clio pushing supermini curves to the extremes
Still, the general view was that the new car which sits on a slightly longer wheelbase, for improved cabin space looks fresh enough to challenge established rivals such as the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta. There is less flair about the cabin, perhaps, where familiar Renault switchgear abounds, but the central infotainment screen standard across the range is clear and reasonably slick to use.
The engines are 1.0-litre turbo petrol and 1.5-litre diesel, and there will also be a 1.2-litre turbo GT to follow. More Clio bodystyles are planned, including an estate variant (not for the UK) and, next year, a small SUV to rival the Nissan Juke.
Renault also showed the Renaultsport version of the car at Paris although it was positioned behind an artificial hill and therefore out of direct line of sight of one of its main rivals, the Peugeot 208 GTi, which was sitting at the other side of the hall.
Interestingly, both of the French hot hatches have adopted a more subtle approach, with the Renault now a five-door, and without the wider wings of its predecessor looking like a much more mainstream devices. The Peugeot looks restrained too, although the 208s great three-door shape does work well with chunky alloy wheels.
They both get turbocharged petrol engines, although the Clio adopts steering wheel gearshift paddles and a dual-clutch transmission. Renault insiders say it has been designed to appeal to a wider audience, which could mean that some of the Renaultsport chassis magic has been toned down. Only time will tell.
Read more on the Renault Clio
Mazda deserves huge credit for keeping the styling of its new Mondeo rival, the 6, so close to that of the dramatic Takeri concept car that first appeared earlier this year. At the time of the show cars launch back in March, Mazda sources suggested that the only part that would change for production would be the door mirrors, and they werent exaggerating. Its a big car, undoubtedly, but a handsome one, either in saloon or estate forms (there is no five-door hatchback).
However, the new cars strengths are more than just its styling. The 6 is the second car after the CX-5 to have been designed from the ground up using Mazdas Skyactiv programme, which mixes lightweight construction with efficient petrol and diesel engines to deliver better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. The result? A car with average economy of 51.5mpg and CO2 emissions of just 129g/km as a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol, and an even more impressive 68.9mpg and 108g/km as a 148bhp diesel.
The cabin looks unashamedly Mazda, which is to say that its nicely screwed together but is a little short on cohesion and, well, just a bit plain. There are certainly stronger-looking fascias elsewhere in the class (Ford Mondeo for style, Volkswagen Passat for perceived quality).
Will that take the edge off the whole package? Well find out when we deliver our verdict on October 5.
Read more on the Mazda 6
Volkswagen Golf/Seat Leon
Weve already seen pictures of the new Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon, but Paris was our first chance to see the new family hatchbacks in the metal. They both sit on the VW Groups new MQB chassis components, which also underpin the latest Audi A3 and will go on to support the next Skoda Octavia.
The new Golf appears to offer the usual modest improvements in the key areas, with a very subtle restyling that does manage to give the car a crisper look. More impressive, though, are the efficiency gains (an average of 13.9% across the range) from a range of engines that runs from a 1.2 petrol to a 1.6 turbodiesel.
The downside? The cabin really is a subtle evolution, with some new materials, a dashboard layout that will be familiar to any current Golf owner, and little else to get the pulse racing. Still, the Golf hasnt become such an icon and a great buying proposition by appearing to take risks.
The Leon, meanwhile, offers a more radical development of whats gone before, and its all the better for it. Its due on sale in February with prices that are likely to be a little more risque than the Golfs, starting from 15,670.
VW also previewed the next Golf GTI with a concept thats likely to be almost entirely unchanged by the time it makes production although it muddied the waters by having examples of the existing Mk6 GTI still on its stand.
Read more on the VW Golf
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
Porsche wheeled out a Panamera estate at the VW Group preview evening, stressing in no uncertain terms that the Sport Turismo was but a concept car. Yet barely 24 hours later, the positive reaction to the car had changed that party line to one of Were assessing the response and may consider production at some point.
No details were released on the estates luggage capacity, but sources indicate it could be more than 550 litres. The more-practical Panamera gets a longer roofline and body surfacing that gives it an altogether more resolved look than the slightly rumpy regular model.
The one confirmed bit of the Sport Turismo is the plug-in hybrid technology, which mixes a 328bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor to give 411bhp. Porsche claims CO2 emissions of less than 82g/km, and fuel economy of more than 80mpg. Crucially, the car can drive for around 19 miles on electric-only power, which means it could still be driven in cities where combustion engines are outlawed during certain hours, or very heavily taxed.
The tech is likely to make production shortly, and given the reaction to the Sport Turismos styling and layout, the extra variant is likely to get the green light, too although its unlikely likely to come until the second-generation Panamera, in 2016.
Read more on the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
BMW Concept Active Tourer
A front-wheel-drive BMW was unthinkable even five years ago, but the German manufacturer showed its hand at Paris with a front-drive family car concept. Its called Active Tourer, but is likely to carry the 1 Series Gran Turismo badge when it reaches dealerships in 2014. The new car is an appealing take on the tall family hatch a direct rival for the latest Mercedes B-Class (at 4.35m long and 1.56m high, it has almost the same dimensions).
It should have Mercedes worried, really, because the Concept Active Tourer was one of the best designs at Paris. It features a sharp, low nose, slightly fussy but effective side surfacing that disguises the depth of the door metal, and a neatly pinched rear window.
Its unmistakably a BMW, but it puts the heavily compromised stance of the current 1 Series so designed because of its rear-drive packaging into sharp focus. The next generation of that car switches to the same front-drive chassis, incidentally.
Our only frustration, really, is that the 1 Series GT is so far off; the show car looked 95% ready for production (only the flashier cabin trim would need to be toned down). When it does turn up, equipped with engines starting with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, it has the potential to be a serious contender in the premium family car market.
Read more on the BMW Concept Active Tourer
Dont expect anything radical or luxurious from the Dacia Sandero, when it joins the Duster SUV in the new brands line-up at launch in January. This is a very conventional and pretty basic five-door Fiesta rival.
However, when your starting price is so far below 10,000 around 7000, perhaps even less merely being respectable is potentially more than good enough. The latest Sandero, unveiled at Paris, looks set to deliver on that score.
Theres enough room inside for four adults and the boot is larger than a Fiestas, at 320 litres. Use the 60/40 split rear seat and that capacity rises to an impressive 1200 litres, a full 200 more than the Fords.
Of course, its hardly plush inside but the examples on the Dacia stand had a seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system that looked clear, simple and easy to use (these are key cornerstones of the Dacia brand), air-conditioning and USB audio connectivity. Even a top-spec version isnt going to cost you much more than 10k and youll even be able to add leather seats for a modest outlay.
With this line-up of features, the competitive cabin space, respectable looks, engines borrowed from the Renault Clio and that price, the Sandero does look a competitive proposition. Theres even a pseudo-crossover model, called Stepway, which will also be coming to the UK. A first test beckons, of course, but we can see it being one of the surprise sales hits of 2013.
Read more on the Dacia Sandero
New Range Rovers dont come along that often, so the fourth generation of the car was given heavy billing by Jaguar Land Rover on its stand on Thursday morning.
Theres no denying that the Land Rover design team has been influenced by its own success with the Evoque; you only have to see the tapering roofline to appreciate that. However, the new model is more effective in the metal than it is in images; it somehow manages to look lower and sleeker, yet no less imposing.
Inside, meanwhile, theres more rear cabin space and its easier to get there in the first place (a longer-wheelbase version, due by 2014, will improve these gains further). Up front the dashboard has been de-cluttered (around 50% fewer buttons now, Land Rover claims) and given a range of lavish new materials.
Its convincing and thats before you a) take it places where an XJ or S-Class just cant go, or b) do the numbers on its fuel efficiency. This Range Rover makes extensive use of aluminium to shed around 400kg in weight. That means that its new baby engine spec, a 254bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, can return a claimed 37.7mpg and emit 196g/km. Prices start from 71,295, and rise to comfortably over 100k after options; expect a full order book.
Read more on the Range Rover
Audi Crosslane Coupe
Forget the show car name: Audis Paris concept star was a preview for the Q2, a new small SUV thats likely to appear in 2015. Based on the same MQB chassis thats used for the latest Audi A3, Seat Leon and VW Golf, the Q2 will be Audis new entry-level SUV.
The show cars dramatic roofline is likely to rise for the production model, which will also get an extra pair of doors to improve access to the rear seats. Even so, the Q2 should provide stern competition for other baby SUVs such as the Mini Countryman.
The concept car is a range-extender, with an electric motor whose batteries can be recharged by a three-cylinder petrol engine when necessary. Wed expect more conventional engines for the production car, and a choice of four- or front-wheel drive although we hope that Audi doesnt tame down the rest of the Q2 to the same levels as the relatively staid Q3. This was once a brand known for daring, brave design; wed like to think theres still room in its range for some more of that.
Paris motor show 2012
Click on the links below for more information on the cars being unveiled at the show.