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Frankfurt Motor Show 2005 - Highlights
 What we've seen • Our photos and comment

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Fiat Grande Punto

Fiat is famous for its very small cars with many classic and innovative designs under its belt such as the Topolino, Nuovo 500, and original Panda. But it is the cars one size up that have always been more significant on the market and Fiat finances, from the 600 through a run of ItalDesign cars; the early 1970s 127 (one of the pioneers of the European 'super-mini' B-class), the Uno and the first Punto. The new Punto is also attributed to ItalDesign, although much of it was done by another Italian design house and in-house at Fiat Centro Stile.

The Grande Punto (Grande because at 4030mm long it is longer than all the other cars in the European B-sector - longer even than the Multipla - and will be sold next to the current Punto for a while) is unusual for this type of car in its simple, classical elegance. Some of its other notable design elements are an almost sports car nose, typical Punto high mounted rear lamps, a striking orange colour and trim option, and an unusual nylon-like material used as appliqué on an otherwise bland IP design.

Toyota Yaris

Designed at ED2, Toyota's European design centre in Nice the second generation Yaris (or Vitz in Japan) is one of the first Japanese cars whose design clearly stems from its predecessor. It takes some of the cues and general design identity of the 1999 Yaris (which was the first production design to come from ED2) and introduces new elements and a greater maturity and substantialness, as well as growing in size to compete head on with other mainstream European B-sector cars such as the Polo and Fiesta.

Although a handsome and well resolved design that looks perfectly judged for the European market, perhaps the most impressive aspects of the Yaris is the way Toyota's engineers have enabled it to have a very short front overhang (relative to other new pedestrian impact legislation driven, longer nosed competitors), a huge amount of interior storage in the IP, and an exceptionally spacious and versatile cabin.

The Yaris is one of the most significant new car designs of the year for the European market: it's going to be a big sales hit in Europe that will signal that Toyota really can crack the European market.

Honda Civic

The previous generation Honda Civic didn't sell so well in Europe – essentially the car was a little too utilitarian in its design identity. So Honda have reacted with something very radical, an unusual move given its conservative existing customer profile, as born out in UK press material that states “Granny may not like it…” !

Some of the many intriguing and innovative elements to the design we'd not noticed before are: an SUV style black strip that runs all around the base of the body including the wheel arches, clear plastic covers over the front and rear lamps, an I-drive style ICE/HVAC control, a Volvo 'space ball' style gear stick, and a false boot floor that so simply (and cheaply) flips between its two positions.

The car was designed wholly in Japan, ironic given that it looks likely to be a greater sales success in Europe than its European designed predecessor (although a less unusual and busy design would have been even more so).

Like it or not, there is so much to see and admire in this unusual new Civic.

Related Stories:
First Sight - Honda Civic
Geneva Motor Show 2005 - Honda Civic concept

Fisker Tramonto and Latigo CS

Frankfurt Show sees the debut of a new car company - Fisker Coachbuild - dedicated to building bespoke luxury cars to the highest standards. This new Californian-based company has been formed by ex-Aston-Martin and BMW designer Henrik Fisker and colleague Bernhardt Koehler, both men having had considerable expertise at BMW, Ford and Aston-Martin.

The Tramonto cabrio is a reskinned Mercedes SL55 AMG featuring the emerging Fisker DNA of wide front grille, horizontal lamps front and rear and milled aluminium accents. The Fisker grille is inspired by the F22 Raptor fighter plane with its wings and trapezoid body seen in silhouette, together with the inset LED indicator strips.

The Latigo CS coupé is based on a BMW 6-Series with tastefully sculpted proportions and reduced overhangs compared to the donor car. Body construction is a mixture of steel and carbon fibre panels, featuring tight shutgaps and fine attention to detail such as well-integrated exhausts and precise shutlines.

Both prototypes were built in a fast eight months since the company was founded. Fisker Coachbuild aim to sell 150 examples of each from 2006.

Toyota Endo concept

The aim of the Endo concept is to explore how a new type of premium form language might be applied to a compact car from Toyota. The basic architecture consists of a rounded upper cabin and a lower free-form section which creates an emotional protective base to the car. “There's a very pure intersection between the upper and lower body sections, with subtle concave surfaces that express the premium positioning of the car” says designer Laurent Bouzige, from Toyota's ED2 studio in Nice.

The 2+1 seating layout has an additional 4th 'perch seat' that swivels out of the rear bodyside when needed. Both rear seat cushions fold away on neat swan neck hinges to offer generous stowage for a city car. The slim front seating is trimmed in silver material combined with tatami-like floor matting. The product design form language is displayed in several ways: for instance the hard geometric links of the door mechanism are allowed to become feature points of the design of the door lining and the IP consists of a single transparent display surface.

Toyota RAV-4

With a 25% share of the compact SUV market in Europe, the RAV-4 has been a big success for Toyota so it's no surprise to see fairly limited changes in design for the third generation model. The overall impression is of a more solid and mainstream look, with clear links in body sections and graphics to the new Yaris and other Toyota models.

Wheelbase is up 70mm compared to the previous model while the width increases by 80mm to offer more generous interior space. The interior focuses on a more premium look with a vertical centre stack in the IP, using brushed aluminium inserts on the console and door grab handles. Although Toyota haven't really tinkered with the basic formula, it seems a shame that both earlier generations' fun character has been so diluted.

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© 2005 Car Design News Ltd
Last updated: Fri, Sep 16, 2005