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article imageAlphabet Soup In Geneva, As Makers Go For The Young At Heart

By Sven Schubert     Mar 8, 2002 in Technology
GENEVA (dpa) - What has four wheels, five doors and looks like a cross between an SUV and an MPV? The Ford Fusion of course - as it introduces yet another new category, the UAV: Urban Activity Vehicle.

The Fusion takes pride of place on the Ford stand at this year's 72nd Geneva Car Show from Thursday March 7 to 17. Around 700,000 visitors are expected to attend the Swiss event.

The chunky lines of the Fusion, based on the platform of the recently introduced new Fiesta, assure that robust Sports Utility look but this car can be a weekend warrior or a minibus for ferrying the kids to school.

Ford hopes it will start a new trend. "The Fusion is aimed at "young, modern families", says Martin Leach, European vice-president for development.

"The original idea was to build a kind of mini Range Rover," Ford's European design chief Chris Bird told Germany's auto motor und sport gazette. The British offroad marque is owned by Ford.

This segment of the market is hotly contested in Geneva where manufacturers are also displaying a raft of wolf-in-sheep's clothing station wagons, powerful saloons and versatile compacts. Like the Fusion they all seem to be aimed at the young at heart.

The motive power for Ford's "active town car" comes from a 1.4- litre Common rail diesel with 68 horsepower or one of two petrol engines of 1.4 litres (80 PS) and 1.6 litre (100 PS).

The marketing men enjoy juggling with letters and it was only a matter of time before the Sports Utility (SUV) and MPV (Multi- Purpose Vehicle gained a stablemate like the UAV. Not to be outdone, Japanese maker Toyota is showing another permutation in Geneva, the UUV or Urban Utility Vehicle - a blend of hatchback and offroad estate car.

Peugeot unveils the estate version of the 307 for the first time, the 307 SW. This is not a van a la Renault Scenic but a Station Wagon or Sport Wagon, says the French maker. The letters can stand for both.

Four engines are on offer and an impressive safety package of airbags all round, an electronic stability system, anti-slip differential and hazard lights which come on automatically during heavy braking. The seats incorporate something called "spinal care system" and there's even an "active foot support" for the driver.

Lean and mean is the motto for German maker Audi which continues its tradition of sporting models with practical tailgates.

Top dog is the RS 6 Avant in saloon and estate form which both make their debut in Geneva. The Ingoldstaedter bounds from 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in just 4.9 seconds, thanks to a 4.2- litre biturbo aggregate. The RS 6 has another new set of initials to its name, road-hugging Dynamic Ride Control suspension or DRC.

Volkswagen's much-vaunted Phaeton, which is due to be built in an innovative, glass-clad factory in Dresden, is bound to attract the crowds. Despite the restrained styling this luxury limo is designed to offer everything a Mercedes S-class can give but at a more modest price. The basic Phaeton will cost 50,000 euros for the 3.2-litre V6 driven version.

First to be offered though is the statesmanlike W 12, with its Audi-derived six-litre, 12 cylinder engine and superior comfort in the shape of air suspension and electronically-regulated damper units.

The Phaeton will be compared with the Maybach, the first car to carry the name for 60 years. Daimler has rumaged through the archives to revive a marque that epitomized luxury in pre-war Germany and the six-metre behemoth will be on display in Geneva along with further competition from within the VW empire - the Bentley Anarge T, with V8 turbo motor turning out 456 horsepower.

Geneva offers the usual witty and exotic concepts, ranging from the Swiss Rinspeed Presto roadster, which can shrink by 75 centimetres at the press of a button to the beefy Nissan GT-R coupe and the definitive motorized roller skate - the Smart Crossblade.

Most concept cars end up in factory museums but believe it or not the Crossblade is destined for production from this summer in a limited series of 2,000 units. For fresh air fans who don't want to ride a motorbike, this modern version of the 1970s Beach Buggy is just the ticket.
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