• Auto show season begins again.
  • Car companies stick with what they know.
  • Debuts of the credible shrinking cars.


The 2012 Paris Auto Show says "Bonjour" as this season of automotive exhibitionism gets going. Alternating with Frankfurt as the opening event, Paris is the more romantic of the two. Remember, no one ever sang: "I love Frankfurt in the springtime." 

On this occasion, Paris hosts an industry more in a state of upheaval than usual. Economic factors have rumbled into the forefront, displacing what may now be the brave old world of environmentally friendly innovations. Sure, there will be some concepts like the Nissan TeRRA (not Xterra) fuel cell crossover and a plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander CUV. Lexus, meanwhile, will peel the wraps from the LF-CC, a mid-size coupe concept powered by a hybrid drivetrain. And Mercedes-Benz will unveil an all-electric compact. 

But car makers are really concentrating on what they know well, hence a fifth generation of midsize sedan from Ford -- known to Americans as the 2013 Fusion -- and a mid-life lift to the Fiesta with styling that looks markedly similar to the Fusion. 

MINI is introducing yet another variant (the seventh) from what must be the hardest-working platform in the business. The 2013 Paceman is a coupe version of the Countryman crossover. 

Next, meet the new 2013 Range Rover. A lot like the old Range Rover.

Over at Volkswagen, the seventh-generation 2013 Golf makes its show debut. A radical departure it is not. There's no mistaking this car for anything other than a Golf, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Having sold more than five million of them, VW couldn't be expected to mess with a winning formula. The Golf also points to another trend at the 2012 Paris Auto Show that is currently more prevalent in Europe, but will make its presence felt in the United States sooner rather than later. Small cars. The land of the free is still the home of the SUV, but gasoline costs incurred by drivers and car companies alike are not going to get any cheaper.
Something has to give, and Paris points to size. 

For example, Toyota is showing a special, more stylish version of its subcompact -- the Yaris Trend. Smart is going with its Forstars all-electric concept. Admittedly, this is actually bigger than the usual Smart, but it's still a small car. And Honda introduces the mid-life refresh of the 2013 CR-Z small hybrid coupe. 

Even BMW is shrinking to grow. From the people who brought us the X5 and the 7 Series comes the Concept Active Tourer, the Munich company's most notable contribution to its show stand. Whether it will ever go into full-scale production remains conjecture at this point, but this hatchback makes the most of its compact packaging by being (grab something secure) front-wheel drive. Rear drive has always been a part of BMW's core identity, so this really is a shocker. 

Let us not, however, imagine every car executive wandering morosely along the banks of the Seine at night, chain smoking Gauloises and chasing the ghosts of French existential philosophers. The 2012 Paris Auto Show still has plenty of va-va-voom.

F probably doesn't stand for France in this context, considering the next entry comes from that old enemy across the Channel. But the Jaguar F-Type sports car -- a real production model, not a concept -- looks like it could spark some passions. Likewise the new generation of 2013 Aston Martin DB9 and the paint-still-wet McLaren P1 supercar, both appearing in Paris for the first time. AutoTrader.com will be reporting on the 2012 Paris Auto Show when it opens to the press on September 25. In the meantime, more information can be found on www.mondial-automobile.com.
What it means to you: We all live on Planet Car, so it's good to keep up with what's happening in the auto world as a whole.


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Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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