Frankfurt Auto Show 2019; the good, the bad and the ugly [w/poll]

The formerly enormous and lively Frankfurt auto show, its halls usually filled with huge display stands, is a mere shadow of its former self, as a great number of automakers and brands have taken a raincheck on the 2019 edition of Europe’s largest auto show. Sure, the Germans are there, and a handful of Chinese brands have made the trip to Germany, and we even saw notorious auto show avoider Ford returning, but the showfloor has shrunk considerably from previous years. There are many more automakers and brands to have skipped Frankfurt this year than there were coming back. The French brands, FCA, Toyota among others had various reasons to take a pass, as the traditional concept of Car Show is quickly being caught up by the changing times, and with individual car ownership on the decline, this trend seems unstoppable.

Having said that, there’s still plenty to drool over, or complain about, so let’s get straight to our personal opinion on the latest model launches.

Honda e

Bart: Hot

Ok, so it’s smaller and has a shorter range at a similar price point than the VW ID.3 that was launched at the same show, but the Honda e makes up for a lot of that in sheer huggability. The retro-styled hatchback with its big, round headlights and its squatted stance just has that wannahave factor that we’ve come to miss from the clean lines of VW’s design. Honda also nails it in terms of technology, with no less than five screens in the dashboard,  among which two that replace the side mirrors with more aerodynamic cameras, as in the much more expensive Audi e-Tron. Its range is more than enough for the average buyer, but will it also be enough to overcome range anxiety in times when range seems to be the prime competitive factor for EVs?

Kriss: Not

This is a tough one – on one hand the Honda e looks pretty good in production form, but on the other hand it is not nearly as good-looking as the concept from a few years ago. And while the modifications to the body added a second pair of doors, their apertures seem almost too small to be truly practical for anyone other than children. But really, where the case for the e falls apart is when you look at its range and price – 124 miles is puny for a modern EV (the new 208e and e-Corsa will have a range of 200+ miles), and the price of around €30,000 puts it squarely in competition with the much larger and longer-ranged VW ID.3. So, at the end of the day what the Honda has going for it is (relatively) good looks and a tech-overload interior… sorry, but just no.

Hyundai i10

Kriss: Not

It takes something special for a minicar to truly stand out, and unfortunately the i10 does not seem to have much of that. You get the de rigueur contrasting-color room (a trick used by e.g. Toyota Aygo) and the most up-to-date iteration of Hyundai’s latest corporate grille (which is bound to age the model quickly), but all in all it seems more like an extensive facelift of the existing model than a truly new car. Add to that a mechanical makeup that mimics the outgoing car, and it’s really hard to find anything to get excited about here…

Bart: So-so

I’ve driven the current i10 a few times and while some may call it a ” mature” minicar, I call it boring or even depressing, as clearly zero effort has been done to make it look nice or to make its passengers smile, both in terms of design and driving dynamics. Compare it’s all-black dashboard to let’s say a Renault Twingo, with its colorful and frivolous interior and compare its lackluster engine to the rev-happy turbo three-cylinder engines. It was perfect as cheap and no-frills transportation in other continents but not what most European minicar buyers are looking for, considering the success of the Fiat 500, Twingo and Up! l It seems like the Koreans have come to understand this better now, as the new i10 looks a bit more aggressive from the outside and a bit less monotonous from the inside. It will still offer normally aspirated (non-turbo) engines, and considering I’m sceptical of the reliability and real-world fuel economy of downsized turbo engines, I do think the minicar segment is one of the few segments where downsizing actually can work, as the small engines won’t have to work too hard to get a small and light car moving.

Land Rover Defender

Bart: Hot

What’s not to like about having a new Defender, especially considering they’ve done this right. Its off-road capability will be unquestionable, its on-road presence is undeniable and it will be priced closer to a well-equipped Jeep Wrangler than to the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, two other 4×4 mainstays that have recently been successfully redesigned. In contrast to those two, which have both stayed very close to their original, the retro design of the new Defender just incorporates styling cues from the original while maintaining/creating its own personality, and I think that will make it stay fresh for longer and perhaps even create a new “original” on which future generations can build from. I’m also glad Land Rover has shown it hasn’t completely lost its touch designwise, as the new Discovery has been a sales flop due to its unsuccessful redesign. All we need now is a convertible version of this.

Kriss: Hot

The new Defender is quickly becoming a bit of a marmite car – some love it, some hate it. I fall squarely in the former camp, with a few reservations. On the plus side, the new Defender looks pretty amazing, and every bit like what you would expect it to look like if it had evolved the way the 911 did over the years. Plus you have to, at least in part, applaud the ballsiness of moving the model to a monocoque construction, when competitors like the Wrangler and G-Class stay true, for better or worse, to body-on-frame. The interior, too, seems to blend traditional qualities and modern tech in just the right way, avoiding the chintzy look of the two aforementioned models. On the flip-side, some of the details let the exterior down a bit (the soft headlamps, the Skoda Yeti-esque profile, the bizarre body-colored panel in the rear side window), and ultimately the model is probably a bit closer to a follow-up to the Discovery Mk III/IV than Land Rover intended. Still, it has the “I want one” factor in spades!

Porsche Taycan

Kriss: Hot

I was a bit torn on whether to give the Taycan a “Hot” or a “So-so”, but ultimately came out on the “Hot” side of things due to two factors. First, the car still looks awesome, despite some truly bizarre detailing around the front headlights, and the inevitable rationalization relative to the stunning Mission E concept. Second, the specifications, while not immediately Tesla-beating, are really rather great, both when it comes to the speed and the range. Now, Bart will go on to argue that it’s disappointing that the Taycan can’t beat the Model S for acceleration is disappointing, I never felt like Porsches should be about the ultimate speed- they’re more about a balance between speed, handling, and real-day practicality. In all these respects, the Taycan delivers for me.

Bart: So-so

Now bear with me for a bit here. I absolutely love the styling of the Taycan, it looks fast and impresses even when standing still. It’s recognizably a Porsche, but it’s also easy to see it’s not just another Porsche as we’ve seen before. So styling-wise I’d give it a Hot, and from a technological standpoint I would buy Porsche’s explanation that it has overdesigned its EV for long-term durability instead of instant performance and range, but it’s just undeniable that even seven years after the Tesla Model S is launched, others still seem unable to offer the same specifications at a similar price point. And don’t even get me started about calling an electric car “Turbo”, the blasphemy, the idiocracy and the utter ridicule of this alone gives me an instant rash.

Renault Captur

Bart: so-so

As with the Clio, Renault has taken a chapter from VW’s playbook in keeping its redesigned models close to the outgoing version while still managing to make it look fresh. Why reinvent the wheel every couple of years, when you have finally found a design language that obviously works? Both the Clio and Captur have risen to (or stayed at) the top of their segments and the brand intends to keep them there. For me, they’ve hit the sweet spot between too little and too much change. Still, it’s a bit disappointing there’s not going to be an electric version, and that the upcoming PHEV (Renault’s first!) has a range of just 45km on its batteries. If only they had put all the effort saved at the design department into the technology….

Kriss: Hot

While I agree with Bart that on the technology front the Captur leaves some be desired, but if we were to judge every ICE-powered car on this metric from now on we’d never really be able to appreciate it for what they are. And to me the Captur is by a long shot the most desirable small crossover on the market – much like with the latest Clio, Renault took a successful design and massaged it to the point that it’d be hard to improve on it – the Captur is distinctive, sporty and elegant, and looks like a model from a class above at least. You really have to feel bad for the sad new VW T-Cross…

Volkswagen ID.3

Kriss: Hot

What is there to be said that has not been said yet – the ID.3 is the beginning of a new chapter for VW and for EVs overall, and if I were Nissan’s EV department responsible for the Leaf I would start updating my resume. Hell, in its clarity of purpose and design the ID.3 puts most other EVs on the market to shame, including VAG’s own half-serious Audi e-Tron effort. With the new ID.4 crossover just around the corner, and a slew of related models coming from both VW and VAG’s other brands, you can’t help but think that we’ll look at this model as the Model T of the electric car era – the time where EVs went truly mass-production and mainstream. 

Bart: Hot

Volkswagen claims the ID.3 can be just as important to the brand and company as the Beetle and Golf once were, and I think they’re not even exaggerating. Building a dedicated EV platform has many advantages over electrifying an existing platform, and by foregoing a flexible platform strategy, VW Group has gone all in on its EV platform. If electromobility is going to take off the way most people expect it to do, then the company is in the driver’s seat. If adoption slows down (as some critics/cynics are claiming), then others like PSA may have taken a smarter approach. Nonetheless, the ID.3 is bound to be a hit in terms of sales. It has inoffensive styling (VW’s speciality), offers Passat-like interior room in a Golf-sized car, and offers impressive range at an affordable price point. The electric car for the people brings back the meaning of the name Volkswagen.

Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet

Bart: Not

Boulevard-cruiser SUV convertibles, will the world ever be ready for them? T-Roc, the Nissan Murano and Range Rover Evoque would like to have a word with you. The only way the combination of SUV and convertible works is in a real offroader, like the Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler, Suzuki Jimny and further back the International Scout and Ford Bronco. I’m not wasting another word on this.

Kriss: So-so

I see where Bart is coming from – by all rights, a crossover convertible should make no sense… and yet to me it does in a twisted kind of way. Why, you may ask? If you think convertibles are as much about seeing the sky as they are about being seen, then a cabriolet based on a trendy type of car, whatever the “trendy” may be, seems like a logical (!) conclusion. Plus, to my eyes the T-Roc’s good looks translate better to a convertible version than the higher-sided Evoque or Murano. And at the end of the day, you just have to prefer this to the sad cabriolet versions of mainstream models (Golf, Astra, 206, Megane) that manufacturers used to offer not so long ago.

What's your favorite of these Frankfurt 2019 launches?

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  1. Looking at the larger picture, there were many things that made this show like nothing I ever say before.
    First of all the unprecedented level of absence. Basically a handfoul of exhibitors, I stopped counting the absentees at 26.
    Then even the Germans took the show back quite a bit.
    And thirdly no cars that are sold right now. Either completely absent (pretty much the VW marque’s stage) or well hidden (Porsche) or a bit of both (Audi and Merc).
    We are at a very strange time of the Automotive world….

    1. You are right, strange times ahead. Opel CEO Lohscheller was far from the only one (Germans for that matter) who highly doubt the IAA’s future

      1. I’ve been going to car shows for many years, and this process has been pretty worrying for some time. I can understand that local importers have a problem with funding an international stage, but when Volvo is present at the Brussels Car Show and Techno Classica but fails to show up here, the German arm is doing something wrong, but perhaps the rest of the company could contribute.

        I understand that Frankfurt stage is an expensive project, and some importers had a problem with never matching the lavish German halls, but this level of absence is not serving anybody.

      1. I believe they forgot to tell that to the Brussels car show 🙂 .

        There were twice as many brands present like the ailing Nissan (they just fired their Japanese CEO, they are in really deep trouble), Opel, DS, Bentley, Ferrari (yes, they also missed out on Frankfurt) Tesla or Volvo.
        Let’s see how this will develop in two years.

      2. Or maybe you’re wrong.
        Car shows have seen lower numbers worldwide, not just in Europe. But if the show offers something different ( like CES ), or if it focuses on people who actually buy cars instead of the motoring press ( Geneva, LA, Brussels as someone else has mentioned ) they do just fine. Maybe it’s time auto shows start looking at what they can do to attract people who buy tickets instead of charging insane prices for admission and for floor areas.

  2. As to the Captur: “…… but if we were to judge every ICE-powered car on this metric from now on we’d never really be able to appreciate it for what they are. And to me the Captur is by a long shot the most desirable small crossover on the market – much like with the latest Clio”. Spot on Kriss!

  3. The Honda e is to me a car designed as a second car that won’t be taken on long road trips, and in that respect it is perfect. No need for a heavier battery that gives more range. If I were only going to own one car, at this point it would be either a hybrid or PHEV. In that respect the new Captur is appealing (except not available in the US where I live), as 45km range is more than enough for most local trips, but you still have the ICE for trips into the (in my case) Maine woods, where there may be no charging points. BEVs are effectively useless in the US except as second cars unless you are a confirmed urbanite, and it looks likely to stay that way for many years to come.

    1. Very good post! I read a lot about cars and I’m done with hysterical media saying BEVs are the modern day cars all people should drive. Uhm, no! Loading and towing capacity are quite poor. Lots of people use their car to go on vacation or other long trips. Well, they can forget about that with a BEV. Electric cars are useful as daily drivers as part of a large fleet. Nothing more. That’s why I think Honda will probably convince some people to drive the e. Renault is 100% right to offer the Captur as a PHEV next to their EV range aimed at corporations. We shouldn’t forget cars like the Captur are meant to attract a large group of customers whereas BEVs are very dependent on the corporate market.

  4. Honda e – Not. It may look adorable but for that price it better have better range, or vice versa. The Mini CooperE is cheaper in many markets, and Honda is not Mini. Not to mention the Zoe, new e208 and eCorsa, who are both cheaper and have better range, not to mention extensive dealer networks throughout Europe. Pass.
    .
    Hyundai i10 – Not. I guess it looks fine, but replacing a true auto box with an automated manual is a step in reverse ( for the client, not for CO2 numbers obviously ). The Picanto is cheaper and looks better.
    .
    Land Rover Defender – HOOOOOOOT. Except in Portugal ( where i live ) where prices start at €88k. FML :/
    .
    Porsche Taycan – So-so. It looks great, but the pricing ( even for a Porsche ) is insane. I’m no Tesla fan, but if you’re making a car that is twice the price of a Model S, it better bring something new to the table.
    On the other hand, i have no problem with the naming system. It’s 2019, words don’t mean anything anymore.
    .
    Renault Captur – Hot. It will sell like, erm… Hot… cakes. And with HEV and PHEV versions coming, it may even breakthrough in Northern European markets, that still mostly ignore ” latin ” brands.
    .
    VW ID3 – So-so – I guess it looks fine, but even the German media was critical of the interior quality, which isn’t a good sign ( VW has taken it’s cost cutting a bit too far imo ). I also think VW is making way too much of a big deal about it’s EV future, if any car is going to be their new Beetle or their new Golf, it’s either the ID4 crossover or the ID2 sub €20k car/crossover they have coming. Still, this is going to make life very difficult for the Leaf and the Model 3 ( in Europe ).
    .
    VW T-Roc Cabriolet – So-so. I guess a convertible Crossover is better than no convertibles at all, and apparently the Evoque Convertible is getting a replacement even though the 3-door isn’t, and it looks better than it has any right to, but… Well, i’m just not the target market.

  5. From high-horsepower wonders to carbon fibre jet skis and Kermit the Frog-lined interiors, we’ve rounded up the good, bad and the ugly for of the tuning crowd for your judgment.

  6. e – not: I wish I could be nicer. Honda will probably convince some companies with employees who make lots of short distance trips between offices, but they failed to design a retro car. The e looks chubby and outdated instead of fresh and quirky from a historical point of view. Besides, it doesn’t fit into Honda’s current line-up at all. Range and pricing are typical Honda, as if they don’t want to sell cars.
    .
    i10 – hot: still the best small car for people who don’t need a bigger car. Technology is fine and it’s very practical. You don’t see this level of interior quality in any given A segment car. Well done Hyundai!
    .
    Defender – hot: should have been the new Discovery of course. Unlike Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover dares to be different by changing an icon in such a way it’s modern and recognisable at the same time.
    .
    Taycan – so-so: another chapter of Porsche’s book about how they ditched their image of being a sports brand. No need to be faster, more exciting or innovative compared with existing cars. It’s all about attracting a large group of people, forcing them to pay way too much for getting way too little. They even followed Audi’s bad example with crazy names. Ugh, how I dislike brands that blatantly fool customers.
    .
    Captur – hot: I’m glad the Captur II changed more compared with the first generation than the Clio did. Looks more classy and mature. Its upgraded interior plus (P)HEV versions result into a very modern car.
    .
    ID.3 – so-so: they took years to introduce an electric car and the best they can come up with is an overweight car with an average range and a cheap interior. Design of the front reminds me of the Up: too simple. Could have been more distinctive for a larger and more expensive car.
    .
    T-Roc Cabrio – so-so: totally agree with Bart here, it’s a ridiculous concept. At least it looks better than the normal messy T-Roc.

  7. Since people can see all vehicles in net (pic & video) leisurely at home or cafe or with friends, there is somewhat less interest in going to the car show.

    Another boring thing is that the automakers mostly show only the engined vehicles and hide the electric vehicles. This will be annoying many of those who want to buy an electric vehicle. Hence the lesser attendance.

    Automakers wants us to just buy the same old engined vehicles.

    Thanks to VW for showing their ID.3 which is very impressive.

    No one will buy the Hondas nonsense e. Look at that, there is not even a model name but “e”. Paying $30K for just a 200 km EV is a rip-off.

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