Fiat Design Center Latim, in Betim, north of Rio and São Paulo, was opened in 2002, making it one of the most established foreign studios in South America. Its latest work is the intriguing FCC4 concept, which has debuted at the biennial São Paulo motor show.
The firm says the FCC4 has been designed with particularly challenging proportions so that 'it subverts traditional car typology'. It measures 5,000mm long, 1,940mm wide and 1,600mm tall, and blends crossover, coupé and even pick-up forms.
The nose is recognizably Fiat, albeit in a way that looks as if 500's face has been printed on plastic wrap then stretched over the front of a Range Rover Evoque. However, the lower mask and DRL graphics show a considerably more aggressive direction for the brand – an interesting move in a relatively conservative car market.
Squared-off wheelarches offer a nod to stablemate Jeep's Cherokee, while the surfacing is similar to the Evoque. However, the FCC4's elongated rear moves into new territory with its pick-up-style tail referencing the popularity of such vehicles in the region. The asymmetric rear doors are another interesting addition.
A long wheelbase, tapering glasshouse and flying C-pillars introduce the coupé element of the design, completing a trio of influences that do offer an unusual take on Fiat's current form language, and an interesting insight into the brand's interpretation of how to meet local tastes in the future.
We'll attempt to discover if the innovation continues when we see the car for ourselves at the show – particularly with regards to the latticework that you can see behind the rear screen.
Two years after the Extrem concept debuted at the São Paulo auto show, Nissan has used the same event to unveil the Kicks show car.
At 4,300mm long, 1,800mm wide and 1,600mm tall, the Kicks is almost exactly the same size as the production Qashqai/Dualis/Rogue. From its U-shaped chrome grille to its pronounced shoulder to its floating C-pillar, the car reinforces Nissan's current crossover design language that began with the Resonance concept, shown at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
But while the forms are now familiar, and the showcar's design has been refined through Nissan's global network of studios, it's the car's colorway that's an interesting attempt at reinforcing Nissan's commitment to developing cars designed with the domestic market in mind.
Following the opening of its studio in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, the Kicks shows how the firm's design team has taken local car culture on-board. It's a crossover in more than one sense, as it's intended to address the conservatism that dominates Brazilian car culture, and encourage buyers to opt for a color other than the pervasive black, silver or white.
So while the Kicks is painted in a gray called satin liquid titanium, in response to the urban environments of São Paulo and Rio, the concept also features flashes of orange – a color appropriately called Rio Sunset – on its roof, skid plates and wheels.
We'll see for ourselves whether Nissan's attempts to appeal to local tastes extends to more than just a colorway when we attend the show this week.
Add the Toyota C-HR crossover concept to your list of new cars to see at the Paris motor show next week.
When Toyota launched the original RAV4 in 1994, it also introduced a new market segment: the crossover. Over the past 20 years, rather like the crossover segment, the RAV4 has grown much larger in size while morphing into a more traditional small SUV. Over the course of its four generations, the RAV4 has lost much of its original distinctiveness.
This C-segment show car not only previews Toyota's intention to enter the lucrative half-SUV, half-coupe market, but is also a preview of a new Toyota design language. Its graphics appear a little less brutal than recent new Toyotas, with a (thankfully) more modest lower grille, while its floating rear lamps are yet another sign that this is a motor show that will be dominated by aerodynamically overt designs.
But while its graphics may be a little softer, its surfacing redresses the balance by introducing what Toyota is calling ‘diamond styling', with an emphasis on faceted surfaces. It's difficult to comment on the success of this new direction from the first images, but it certainly poses some interesting solutions, particularly around the bodyside. These are formed of arrow-shaped graphics, formed from two creases that run up from the rocker and down from the DLO behind the door shut. This surface forms a crease that runs back under the rear lamps, giving an extruded luggage space, tapered rear and a hint of dynamism that's reinforced by the FT-1-style vents in the bumper.
Look out for further details from our CDNLive blog from Paris next Thursday and Friday where we'll be able to see if the hints of Hyundai Veloster and Renault Captur concept are less obvious in real life.
In addition to a Europe-specific version of the Exalt concept, Peugeot will reveal a new show car in Paris. Called the Quartz, it follows themes established by the Onyx, shown in Paris two years ago, and the Exalt, which debuted in Beijing earlier this year.
At 4,500mm long and 2,060mm wide, the Quartz is the smallest of the three, and, more obviously, switches coupé for crossover aesthetics. It has also brought about a turn away from elegance and towards aggressive exterior design, with its oversized intakes, slashed surfaces and 23-inch carbon rims.
Peugeot's recent concepts have involved interesting uses of materials inside and out. The Quartz continues this trend by revisiting the diagonal 'coupe franche' that separates the mineral gray color of the front of the car from the matt black rear wings. This car also adds red highlights on the exterior, while the door cards feature upper surfaces milled from a single piece of composite, with the grooves left over from the process also highlighted in red.
The cabin also features the first application of digitally woven textiles. These use polyester fibers made from recycled plastic water bottles, and are printed in single pieces so there's no waste. Peugeot uses natural volcanic basalt in the center stack, too, which had previously featured in the rockers of the Exalt.
Renault has bucked the trend of rather uninspiring Paris Motor Show previews with the Eolab. This B-segment-sized car that has been designed to a brief that states it must return fuel economy of 2l/100km (118mpg US/141mpg UK), and that all of its major technical innovations must be production-feasible by the year 2020.
The Eolab is actually two cars – the Eolab prototype, which the engineering team has signed off as capable of 1l/100km (235mpg US/282mpg UK), and the Eolab Concept, which was overseen by the design team.
The latter is understandably better resolved visually, most notably in the detailing of the LED headlights that spread across the nose, and the buttress-style A-pillars that run down into the fenders, forming the leading edge of the door shut.
The name Eolab is a blend of 'Aeolous,' the Greek god of winds, and 'Laboratory', rather than an unfortunate anagram of ebola, and highlights the impact that aerodynamic efficiency has had on the design in order to achieve the economy target.
The carbon-alloy rims – 19-inch on the Concept, 17-inch on the prototype – have shutters built into each spoke, while the car features variable ride heights and an active front spoiler that helps control air flow around the car.
At speeds of 70kmh (43mph) or above, spats extend behind the rear wheel, cleaning the air flow as it disconnects from the car and reducing the drag coefficient to 0.235, or 30 percent less than the equivalent current Renault Clio.
The colorway reflects the emphasis on aero too, with fluoro orange highlights on the aero bodywork contrasting with the liquid metal gray. That color theme and geometric pattern of the car's nose is echoed in the cabin.
To reduce weight, there are two doors on the passenger side, and a single driver's door, while the four seats are 30 percent more compact and 40 percent lighter than today's Clio. An aluminium bar crosses the dash, referencing the use of lighter materials - Renault claims the Eolab is 400kg lighter than an equivalent Clio - while the car's 11-inch touchscreen includes a cloud-themed display designed to encourage economical driving, rather than just providing a readout of current mpg as today.
Although this car could quite easily have come from Renault's alliance partner Nissan - its similarity to the Resonance concept in particular is notable - the Eolab is certainly worthy of a more thorough exploration in Paris.
Following the 'concept' unveiled at the Frankfurt show a year ago, Ford has now released pictures of the near-identical production version of the second-generation S-Max. The car will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show next month, and goes on sale in early 2015.
Although it's designed in Europe for the European market, the S-Max has still received the One Ford global design treatment. That means the generic chromed trapezoidal grille, tapered lamps and creased hood are present and correct, visually aligning it with the Fusion/Mondeo with which it shares a platform. However, as with the most-recent Kuga, this is at the expense of the previous model's more distinctive overall design. The S-Max also loses details like the circular fog lamps mounted high up the bumpers and caricature fender vent this time around.
Although very similar in size to the outgoing model, the A-pillar of the new S-Max has been moved reward, continuing the wider industry trend of moving away from monovolumes. The beltline has been raised to reinforce the car's positioning as the sportiest minivan on the market, although that comes at the expense of reduced glazing, which seems like an oversight in a family car.
The tailgate is a stacked with surface changes that somehow lack the confidence of the simpler original. We'll have to wait until Paris to be sure.
As with the exterior, the cabin has been given a contemporary if not exactly exciting makeover, with all but the HVAC controls now incorporated in an eight-inch touchscreen. However, again that comes with the loss of the some of the original's interesting details, like its parking brake lever that plunged into the center console.
We're adding it to our list of somewhat underwhelming Paris show debutants.