Last revised: 26-1-2009

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AutoRAI 2003: the concept cars

Renault_Kangoo_Break-Up_2002The Renault Kangoo is a practical and utilitarian van-like vehicle sold as a passenger car and as a light commercial vehicle. Being already on the market for a few years Renault decided to update its looks and introduced the new styling with the Kangoo Break'up concept at the 2002 International 4WD and SUV Motor Show in Val d'Isere, France.
The Kangoo Break'up presents itself as a true sports utility vehicle by its high ground clearance, its spacious interior and by having ample room at the back for carrying bikes, surfboards or other sports equipment. The most remarkable feature of the Break'up, which probably explains its name, is the pick-up style open rear end. The roof and side panels open at the rear to convert it into a 106 litre pick-up. The two rear doors at the luggage compartment open up 90 degrees towards the in- or the outside of the car. Turned inwards the doors can be fixed in that position, producing an open cargo bay. To that end the spare wheel is placed against the back of the rear seats. In the cargo bay a special fixing system for transporting bikes is fitted which is patented by Renault.
The Kangoo Break'up features a permanent all-wheel drive system and is powered by a 1.6 litre 16-valve petrol engine producing 110 hp. Its front end design shows the new Renault family look which will also appear on the restyled regular Kangoo.

The combination of the bright yellow metallic paint job and the grey plastic mouldings make the Kangoo Break'up a striking vision. This concept seems practical and versatile and should appeal to active outdoor people.

Rover_TCV_2002Keeping in mind the important role the British car industry once has played it seems a worth while cause to keep at least one British independent manufacturer alive. After a tumultuous recent history the now independent and British MG-Rover group has set its mind firmly on survival. A clear statement of that was the introduction of the Rover TCV concept at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show. This concept lacks running gear but shows in what direction new Rover exterior and interior styling might go.
The TCV, which stands for Tourer Concept Vehicle, is a formidable and spacious wagon leaning towards a cross-over sports utility vehicle. Its exterior moves away from Rover's more usual conservative styling and shows sharp, clear cut lines with a squarish front and rear end. The front does sport however a modern interpretation of Rover's classic grille. Remarkably the TCV has an odd purple paint job here, where it wore more becoming silver grey livery at Geneva.

Rover_TCV_2002Basically the TCV is a roomy 5-passenger estate wagon with a flexible interior. The rear three seats and the front passenger seat can be individually folded down flush with the rear floor to create a huge cargo space, allowing the transportation of objects up to 3.1 metres in length. The central rear seat is modular and can be replaced with a child seat, an entertainment center, a fridge/foodwarmer and whatever else comes in handy.
In the rear not only the hatch door opens, but also a section of the bumper opens down separately, allowing access to an underfloor storage compartment. For carrying high items the main load floor can be removed and placed on the floor of the lower compartment, thus creating an extra deep cargo space capable of even fitting a washing machine upright.

MG-Rover tries to embody versatility and luxury with this concept but in all it doesn't look very convincing. It's massive and bulky with too many crisscross lines. It seems to me that the MG-Rover design department had a bit of a wild day when they conjured up this car and I genuinely hope they'll improve on it for the next generation of Rovers scheduled to appear starting 2004.

Seat_Salsa_Red_2002Seat shows that a concept car can be recycled. On the occasion of the 2002 Madrid Motor Show the Spanish division of the Volkswagen Audi Group has taken their 2000 Seat Salsa Emocion concept and gave it a makeover. The shape of the car hasn't changed much and neither has the featured technology but a new coat of paint has been slapped on and a number of details have been redesigned. And there you have the new Salsa Red, ready to strike the car show circuit all over again.
The Salsa is meant as a forerunner of Seat models to come, giving some of the design cues the company will embrace. It's sort of a mixture between a hatchback, a coupe and a monovolume space car which has been a trend for some time now. The 2+2 seater interior has been revamped to give it a more sporty and dynamic atmosphere. The colors red and black now dominate, set off by brushed aluminum accents and carpetting with a metallic effect.
The powertrain of the Salsa remains the same: a 2.8 litre V6 engine which produces 250 hp drives all four wheels through a 5-speed tiptronic gearbox. Also it still features Seat's Multi Driving Concept which offers sport, comfort or city settings on selection by a swivel stick. For the Salsa Red performance figures of a top speed of 245 kph and a 0-100 kph acceleration in 7.5 seconds are stated, slightly better than those of its predecessor.

The relevancy, if there ever was any, of the Salsa concept is fading away. Its looks aren't futuristic anymore and its technology isn't that exiting. Just compare it to the similar Alfa Romeo Brera and see the difference. The bright red color is an improvement but it still looks like a suppository. Time to hit the drawing boards for a new design, Seat.

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