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Bling toys and the real stuff


Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class

VW's touchy-feely talk failed to impress Campbell Spray, who just wanted to see new metal at the Geneva showcase

THE BLINGEST star of last week's press days at the Geneva Motor Show was the Bentley SUV, a car I hope we won't see much of here although I can think of a couple of people with enough money and bad taste to want one.

Premiership footballers, Russian oligarchs and Chinese hustlers are probably the main market but it shows the depth of the Volkswagen group that in one presentation it can deliver onstage the Bentley and some outrageously expensive sports cars like a sex-on-wheels Bugatti alongside Seat's new baby called the Mii and a nicely plumped-out version of the Audi A3.

However, so much of the rather stagey talk at the VW presentation was about how wonderful an employer VW is and the millions of trees it is planting. The words sustainability and responsibility kept being projected on the stage as though the company was presenting its wares to a bunch of ethical fund managers or right-on human resource directors rather than motoring hacks who really just wanted to see new metal.

It wasn't my cup of tea but you can't take away from the company's worldwide success or that nearer home where it now accounts for 25 per cent of all new car sales and leapt into first place with the Volkswagen brand last month. Nothing breeds success like success.

At less rarefied levels I thought there were some really lovely unveilings which we will see a lot of eventually on our roads. First up will be the new Peugeot 208 which has a lovely touch of real desirability. It will arrive here at the end of June and thankfully will have two clean and frugal petrol engines as well as diesel. I do hope the push to oil-burning can start to be reversed. Moving up a notch, the new Mercedes A-Class is quite a stunner and eschews the boxiness of the current and past models. It looks younger and cooler which should help in Mercedes' aim to break away from its middle-aged profile and take some of the action from Audi. It will be 2013 before it's selling here.

Also looking very invigorating is the Volvo V40 which continues the development of the brand in producing cars that are very real premium alternatives which actually give more in both content and style than the big German marques while still retaining their great work in pioneering new safety systems. Being up close and personal with the V40 was one of the highlights of the first press day.

While hybrid technology is very much the norm these days the tent where many of the electric vehicles were was a very dispiriting place last Tuesday. There were very few takers among the press corps and even less was going on at the small test routes. I hope it picked up when the public came in.

Electric cars are not the solution on their own but are part of it and for many people it really does make sense.

It was interesting that the Opel Ampera, which has a petrol engine on board to generate electric power when the battery runs down after about 80km, won the European Car of the Year Award announced on Monday. It arrives here in the autumn but priced at more than €40,000 will only be a small seller.

Back at the Volkswagen presentation the new Seat Toledo was announced as a "beautiful car at a beautiful price". However, when the first thing they highlighted about this family car was the boot you know you're on to a loser.

The car looks very dull and one colleague quipped that it at least gives the Nissan Tiida a run for its money in that area.

Sunday Independent