In the world of social media, car shows aren’t quite the thing they once were. By the time the show opens, we already know most of the technical details and have seen dozens of teaser photos, concept drawings, and spy shots. So why go? Because there are always some details to be ferreted out and interviews with company big wigs eager to tell us why their new Belchfire 5000 will disrupt the automotive universe and drive a stake through the heart of Tesla.
On March 5 in Geneva, Kia, Citroën, and new kid on the block Piëch will pull back the curtain on their latest electric car creations. Will any of them make it to production? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Kia Concept Will Make Hearts Race
On the basis of price, comfort, and reliability, Kia and its corporate sibling Hyundai build some of the best cars on the planet. True, they are not aspirational vehicles like a Models S P100D or a Jaguar I-PACE, but for mainstream drivers, they check a lot of boxes on their new-car wish list.
We know next to nothing about the concept car Kia is bringing to Geneva except for the teaser photo the company released on social media and emailed us this week. Here’s what Gregory Guillaume, vice president of design for Kia Motors Europe, said in a company press release:
“Automotive design is about capturing the heart and making it beat that bit faster for that bit longer — and we believe that there’s absolutely no reason why that should change simply because the car is electric.”
The concept was crafted at Kia’s design studio in Frankfurt. Kia says the electric concept will provide ample range and the performance customers. It will “signpost our holistic and emotional approach to electrification,” Guillaume said.
Kia and Hyundai together already have a trio of highly competent electric hatchbacks — the Kona EV, Niro EV, and Soul EV — that all use the same 64 kWh battery platform coupled to a 201 hp motor driving the front wheels. While the rest of the industry is running away from sedans and coupes like they had the plague, Kia seems to be embracing the passenger car again with this concept. Sometimes swimming upstream is the way to stand out in a crowd. Might the new concept be rear-wheel drive, which would be appropriate for a performance-oriented passenger car? We’ll see in two weeks.
Citroën Ami One
Citroën makes quirky cars. Always has and always will, apparently. One of the quirkiest was the iconic 2CV, a tiny, tinny Quonset hut on wheels with a tough 2 cylinder air-cooled engine and generous suspension travel that was ideal for bombed out roads and squeezing every drop of energy out of a liter of gasoline. Like the Volkswagen Beetle, it was a car for everyone — practical, frugal, and reliable. It quickly became the workhorse of France in the post-war era.
At Geneva, Citroën is rolling out yet another quirky creation, the Ami One — an all-electric cube shorter than a Smart ForTwo with a top speed of just 28 mph. Why? Because many European teens are allowed to drive such low-speed vehicles with a learner’s permit. In some countries, youths as young as 14 are permitted to climb behind the wheel and go — slowly — about their business. That may sound crazy to Americans, but obtaining a full driver’s license on the Continent can cost up to €3,000 and is often not available until you’re older (21, for example), making the learner’s permit an attractive option.
The Ami One is built to be cheap. The doors are interchangeable — hinged at the front on one side, hinged at the rear on the other. The seats, such as they are, are 3D-printed plastic affairs that don’t look particularly comfortable for cross-country journeys. The interior is minimal and meant to be easily swept out — or hosed out if the need arises.
The lithium-ion battery is mounted under the floor and can be recharged in 2 hours on ordinary household current, which in France is 220V. Range is 62 miles. Acceleration? Not so’s you’d notice.
Is there a market for this transportation device? Citroën thinks so. Perhaps that’s all we need to know. Just for fun, we have included a short video of 2CV racing. How long before someone dreams up an Ami One competitive format?
Piëch Mark Zero
Ferdinand Piëch may be the man who cost Volkswagen billions with his single-minded — some would say pig-headed — insistence that his engineers could make diesel engines that met European exhaust emissions regulations without urea injection systems. In the end, he quietly slunk out of Wolfsburg with his fortune intact while those left behind found themselves the targets of legal investigations and facing some serious prison time.
Now his son, Anton, has formed a new car company that features the family name. It intends to present its first creation, the Mark Zero — an electric sports coupe — in Geneva. As the CNET Roadshow suggests, the front grille is reminiscent of recent Aston Martin designs, even though why an electric car would need such an excrescence on its leading edge is a mystery. Squint and a family resemblance to the Porsche 911 can be seen, or is it the Hyundai Tiburon we are seeing?
Almost nothing is known about the car other than that it reportedly has a T-shaped battery pack that sits in a tunnel between the seats and then stretches across the rear axle of the car. Range is reported to be 311 miles on the WLTP test cycle. Price? Performance? All will be revealed in due course. Patience, grasshopper.