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Prime picks from Paris

The year may be drawing to a close but there’s still plenty of activity in the new car market. Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch runs his eye over the most recent new arrivals.

Jonathan CrouchJonathan Crouch

November 2016


News from the volume brands

Volkswagen Golf
The 7th generation Volkswagen Golf

Other models come and go but there’s only one Volkswagen Golf. The seventh generation version of this car has been the most successful one ever for its makers and now, the Wolfsburg brand has significantly improved it.

The first thing you’ll notice about this revised Golf is probably its slightly sleeker front end. Many variants now get full-LED headlamps and the air intakes at either corner of the front bumper have been restyled too. Jewel-like LED tail lamps are now standard across the range and on top versions, there are smart animated flowing indicators too. Otherwise, things are much as before – which means that there’s a choice between three or five-door hatch and estate bodystyles, both of which sit on the Volkswagen Group’s light, stiff and very sophisticated MQB chassis.

Most of the engineware in this Golf is carried over from before, but there is an all-new petrol powerplant – Volkswagen is calling it the ‘1.5 TSI Evo’, a four cylinder petrol turbo that uses ‘Active Cylinder Management’ to cut off two cylinders under light to medium throttle loads. This engine develops 150PS in its standard form, but there is also a ‘BlueMotion’ version developing 130PS. The other change beneath the bonnet has been applied to the Golf GTI, which had fallen behind some of its rivals in the power stakes. Now, this model develops 230PS in its standard form, or 245PS if you go for the ‘GTI Performance’ derivative. The other mechanical change made to the line-up is the replacement of the old 6-speed DSG auto gearbox with a more efficient 7-speed unit.

Honda Civic
The improved Skoda Octavia

The improved Skoda Octavia has a new front end where two adjacent headlights form a dual face with a crystalline look that features full-LED technology. The brand logo has gained more presence, with the front of the car featuring what the Czech maker hopes is a more powerful and wider appearance. Of course, it remains just as spacious as before and you get a feel for that when you lift the heavy boot lid. The cargo area is absolutely huge, the 590-litre capacity reached over a notably low lip and the space on offer almost double what you'd get in a comparably-priced Ford Focus and over 50% more than you'd get in that Volkswagen Golf. There's 610-litres if you go for the Octavia estate model.

Under the bonnet, the main news is the introduction of a frugal and sophisticated 1.0-litre engine developing 115PS and 200NM of torque. It can be ordered with or without 7-speed DSG auto transmission and in manual form, makes 62mph in 9.6s. Otherwise, the engines on offer are much as before. Petrol people get a 1.4 TSI 150PS unit or, in the top vRS performance models, 220 or 230PS versions of the 2.0 TSI turbo unit borrowed from the Golf GTI. Those in search of a diesel get either a 115PS 1.6 or 150 or 184PS versions of the usual 2.0 TDI unit. Opt for an engine with 150PS or more and you get the option of DCC adaptive damping.

SEAT Leon
The revised SEAT Leon, a family hatchback with a sporty fashionable feel.

On to the revised SEAT Leon, aimed at the family hatchback segment buyer wanting a slightly sportier, more fashionable feel. As before, Leon buyers choose from either a five-door hatch, an 'ST' estate model or an 'SC' three-door coupe. In all three cases, SEAT says that visual style was one of the key reasons why people bought the original version of this car, so it wasn't necessary with this face lifted version to change the aesthetics too much. A few tweaks though, have been made. At the front and rear, there are revised bumpers and bodywork with sharper, more assertive lines, plus there's a smarter chromed front grille.

Inside, the ambient lighting LEDs' intensity can be regulated as the driver wishes from the newly designed a redesigned eight-inch central infotainment screen eliminates the need for many of the buttons and dials that were scattered around the fascia on the previous model. From this monitor, the LED ambient lighting of the cabin can be dimmed or intensified, giving the interior a classy feel. Otherwise, things are much as they were before, which means that passenger space is very class-competitive and there's a decently sized 380-litre boot in the hatch model. If you need more space than that, the ST estate offers 587-litres.

Under the bonnet, the Leon also gets the 1.0-litre TSI three cylinder 115PS unit. Other petrol engine options include a 1.4-litre EcoTSI variant with efficient Cylinder-on-Demand technology. And a 1.8-litre TSI power-plant with 180PS. As before, Cupra versions get the 2.0 TSI petrol engine from the Golf GTI, but in an up-rated form developing either 265 or 280PS. Most Leon buyers though, will want a diesel. Here again at the foot of the range there's a fresh option, a 115PS version of the VW Group's familiar 1.6-litre TDI unit. Above that sit the usual 2.0-litre TDI units, offered with either 150 or 184PS. When it comes to gearboxes, the range includes five- or six-speed manual options, all well as double-clutch DSG auto 'boxes with six- or seven-speeds.

News from the prestigious brands

BMW 5 Series
The all new 7th generation BMW 5 Series

The the all-new seventh generation BMW 5 Series is the model that all car-crazy Management-level business people are currently talking about. This is a full-sized Executive segment model that in recent generations hasn't quite been able to achieve the required blend between luxury and driving involvement. This seventh generation version claims a much better balance between these two extremes and adds smarter looks, impressive media connectivity and a suite of electronic driving aids able to match the best that competitors have to offer.

A lot of the improvements made here you could perhaps have predicted. BMW's Plug-in hybrid tech makes an appearance and the sophisticated aluminium-rich chassis from the latest generation 7 Series also features beneath the skin. The company's expertise in autonomous driving systems and media connectivity is also showcased too. If all of this can shroud a car that cossets its passengers while still rewarding the driver at the wheel, then quite a contender is in prospect.

Audi Q5
Audi Q5 MkII

If you don’t want just another management level saloon or estate, then you might be among the increasing number of corporate buyers swapping into SUVs and Crossovers. Perhaps a car like the second generation version of the Audi Q5. Compared to the previous model, this MK2 variant has grown in nearly all of its dimensions and takes a defined and taut stance on the road. A sculpturally flared single frame grille with a solid frame dominates its aerodynamically flat front end. This feature is flanked by headlights that use either xenon or full-LED technology - or buyers can order Audi's advanced adaptable Matrix LED system as an option.

Most Q5 customers will want the 190PS 2.0 TDI diesel engine but low mileage owners shouldn't discount the much improved 252PS 2.0 TFSI petrol unit. You can also talk to your Audi Centre about a 286PS 3.0 TDI six cylinder diesel too. The drive-train of this mid-size SUV has been redeveloped from the ground up - take the revised six-speed manual transmission and the more efficient seven-speed S-tronic auto 'box for example. The standard Quattro 4WD system is improved too, using Audi's 'ultra' technology to always disengage the rear-axle drive whenever it isn't needed: if necessary, the system can then proactively re-engage it.

Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe
The new Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe

If you want something like the Q5 but would like more stylish, sleeker looks, then check out the new Mercedes GLC Coupe. As you'd expect, this car's design owes much to that of the standard GLC hatch model, so you get the same sloping roofline, narrow rear window and big tail-lights. The front end is exactly the same as that of the regular GLC but if you get out the tape measure, you'll find that this Coupe is 80mm longer and 40mm wider than its donor model - and slightly longer than a rival BMW X4. As usual, there's a wide range of options to make your GLC look either sporty or very luxurious, both inside and out. Go to town in the cabin and it really will feel luxurious. Options that'll help the car stand out include side running boards and huge 20-inch alloys.

Inside, there are few changes from the regular GLC. Carried over is the flowing, one-piece centre console and tablet-style infotainment display, this positioned on top of the beautifully crafted dash. Standards of shoulder, elbow and legroom are the same in the front, but headroom is inevitably a little more restricted at the back, though five folk can still be seated inside. The 491-litre boot loses 59-litres of capacity over the standard GLC and offers a maximum capacity of 1,205 litres with the rear bench folded flat.