Geneva Motor Show showcases new generation of urban SUVs

Several carmakers are unveiling a new generation of urban SUVs seeking to combine the traditional hallmarks of the 4x4 off-roader with low fuel consumption and nimble qualities required for city driving in Geneva. ( dpa )

Carmakers have been forced to downsize as several countries have passed energy bills and legislation to curb greenhouse gases. The compact SUVs are smaller and more versatile, sometimes not fitting a particular vehicle category.

The weighty, fuel-guzzling versions have never been popular with eco-warriors who see them as polluting city air and posing a serious risk to other traffic participants with their tonnage and massive crash bumpers. At the recent Detroit Motor Show, several SUV concepts were on show with hybrid and other clean-drive technology.

The Geneva Motor Show, aimed primarily at the European market, tends to place more emphasis on the mini cars, hatchbacks, sedans and station wagons. But the crossovers in the small SUV segment are becoming a fast growing market.

Toyota is showing its Urban Cruiser concept with first images released by the Japanese car maker depicting a vehicle with narrow measurements but the ride height of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).

Although Toyota has only revealed a few sketchy details, the vehicle is said to have the fuel consumption qualities of a small car.

The name of the concept points to the general trend toward more compact or crossovers in the controversial SUV segment. Few SUVs are ever used in the rough terrain for which they have been designed. They have rather been popular among urban professionals - both male and female.

Nissan's luxury arm, Infiniti, is making a European launch of the new generation FX37 crossover. It is expected to have evolutionary design changes and a larger V8 engine compared to the current V6 model.

It is the first time a new Infiniti will be unveiled outside the main US market and it will be available throughout European showrooms later this year. Reports suggest that Infiniti will offer the new FX from 2011 with an optional hybrid power train and a revolutionary electric motor system to assist petrol engines at low and high speeds, significantly improving fuel consumption.

Renault is entering the hotly contested segment with the launch of the Koleos, a crossover based on the concept first shown at the Paris Motor Show in 2006.

Available in European showrooms from September, the Koleos has much to offer in terms of comfort. A special feature is the 0.75 square metre panoramic roof with a twin-zone air conditioning system providing just the right cabin temperature. Special sound-proof materials including a low-wind resistance windscreen keep road and engine noise at a minimum.

Also celebrating its world debut in Geneva is the Ford Kuga, competing against VW's new compact SUV the Tiguan. The Kuga is built on the platform of the Focus and C-Max and will only be available with a 2-litre TDCI diesel motor with an output of 136 hp. Customers wishing to do without the 4x4 can choose only the front-wheel drive version.

The Land Rover LRX Cross Coupe had its formal debut in Detroit and will also be on show in Geneva. It is an evolution of the SUV with more emphasis on tarmac than "mountain goat" abilities.

The three-door vehicle is built with environmentally friendly materials and is a shortened version of the LR2. The four seats come in soft vegetable-tanned leather. The glass for the side windows and the roof are from polycarbonate material, which makes it 40 per cent lighter. The carpeting is made of felt from sustainable resources.

BMW meanwhile is presenting the third member of the X family, the X6 Concept which it defines as a "Sports Activity Coupe." Slightly different from the X6 shown in Frankfurt, it focuses more on driving pleasure rather than load or passenger capacity. It is fitted with BMW's new chassis control system called Dynamic Performance Control, varying distribution of power between the wheels for perfect stability.

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