I was all set to attend this year’s Geneva Motor Show until last week, when I finally got the official programme from the organisers. While I expected a few manufacturers not to attend, I was flabbergasted to find that only a handful were going.

Of the makers that we’d recognise here, only BYD, Dacia, MG and Renault were going to display their wares. Everyone else was staying away.

It’s sad to see a once-great show on its knees like this but at least part of the blame lies at the feet of the organisers.

It’s true that Covid has had a huge knock-on effect on motor shows around the world – just look at Paris last autumn. Since the pandemic, manufactures have figured out innovative ways to reach their customers and some have made the decision that motor shows, with the necessity of building huge, expensive stands are not the best ways of spending their money.

I think Geneva’s problem though is the way they cancelled the 2020 show. It was early March, just as the pandemic was gathering steam. It was obvious to all that the show wouldn’t go ahead but no official word came from Geneva until the authorities stepped in and banned all large gatherings. By this stage, serious work had begun on the huge stands while the organisers declared force majeure as an excuse not to have to hand back fees or issue any refunds.

I don’t think they made any friends with that decision and it appears it’s come home to roost for them.

Whether they can recover for 2025 is anyone’s guess but my gut feeling is that the show is finished. It’s a real shame.


So, on to the few makers who bothered to turn up and we start with BYD, who already have three EV models on the market here, The Atto 3 SUV, Dolphin hatchback and Seal saloon. They may be new to making cars but BYD as a company are huge in battery manufacturing and are now a really significant global player.

Their new Seal U is a departure in that it will be only available as a plug-in hybrid. It’s a mid-sized SUV although its name gives a clue that it will use some of the styling cues from the Seal saloon.

It takes power from a 1.5 litre petrol engine, although motor power is said to be prioritised to increase fuel economy. The 18kWh battery is said to be good for an EV range of around 90km.

Both AC and DC charging is on offer, unusual for a PHEV, although speed is pegged to just 18kW. V2L is also provided to charge other devices.

The Yangwang U8 is BYD's new luxury sub-brand's take on a Range Rover EV.
The Yangwang U8 is BYD’s new luxury sub-brand’s take on a Range Rover EV.

BYD also launched their new luxury sub-brand at Geneva, with the frankly ridiculous name of Yangwang. That needs to be changed right away. The first product is the huge U8 electric SUV, which can rotate its wheels on both axles to aid manoeuvrability.


Dacia showed off their new Duster, which will be coming here quite soon. Their big news was the second generation Spring EV, which will be sold here for the first time before the end of the year.

New Dacia Spring EV.
New Dacia Spring EV.

This should be the cheapest EV on the market and it’s designed primarily as a city car, with a small battery contributing to its light weight of under a tonne.

The electric motor offers a choice between either 44 or 64bhp, depending on which of three trim levels you choose and top models get niceties including a 10” touchscreen, live navigation and Apple Carplay/Android Auto.

It’s certainly a small car, at just over 3.7m in length and the 27kWh battery has a claimed range of around 200km. You won’t be travelling long distances in this car as it comes as standard with only 7kW AC charging. There’s an optional DC charger available, but only 30kW.


Also on the hybrid trail are MG, with a new MG3 supermini. It’s a full hybrid with a total of 192bhp on offer from a 1.5 litre four cylinder petrol and an electric motor, both driving the front wheels. Up to 250Nm of torque is available from the electric motor alone, making for strong performance, with a 0-100km/h time of around 8 seconds.

MG3 Hybrid.
MG3 Hybrid.

There’s a small, 1.8kWh battery but the car can drive on electricity for short periods and up to 80km/h. There’s a three speed automatic instead of the more usual CVT in these types of cars. I haven’t heard of a three speed auto in a new car for decades, but I suppose the electric motor will take care of any yawning gaps in the ratios.


And finally, the undoubted star of this year’s Geneva Show, Renault’s retro-inspired 5 EV. It’s a really cute design and it does remind you of the original 5 supermini from the 70s. Renault aren’t the first to go down this route, with the Fiat 500 and Mini also raiding their back catalogues for design inspiration.

The retro-styled Renault 5 e-tech.
The retro-styled Renault 5 e-tech.

The 5 shares its platform with the next generation Nissan Micra and Leaf and it comes with a choice of batteries with a range of up to 400km. It will weigh under 1,500kg – heavy for a supermini but EVs aren’t lightweights.

Renault, unusually, are citing a 15 year life-cycle for the 5 with upgrades available every year. Those upgrades could include increased efficiency, up to and including completely new battery chemistries as they become available, while keeping the basic structure of the car the same.

Offering those upgrades to existing owners would be an interesting prospect but I suppose there are limits to that. The first upgrade comes even before the car hits the market and that’s steering wheel mounted paddles offering multiple brake regeneration levels, including one pedal driving.

Two battery options are expected, with a choice of either 40kWh or 52kWh. The smaller battery will come with a 121bhp motor, while the bigger option will get 148bhp. Both will be available in a range of trims.

Up to 100kW charging is on offer and a heat pump is standard equipment across all variants. 11KW AC charging with V2L will also feature.

The new 5 EV will also be joined by the 4 and Twingo EVs, both expected to be even less expensive.


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