Frankfurt: Foot massage, anyone?


Normally after all that motor show hospitality, it is journalists' heads that hurt – with Frankfurt, it is the opposite end of the body.

The aptly named Frankfurt Messe consists of 11 exhibition halls, all the size of aircraft hangers.

One journalist apparently used a pedometer to measure the distance he walked on press day, which turned out to be nine miles.

What summed up the German attitude to the show was, that Audi decided that none of the eleven halls was suitable and so built its own, complete with a self-important inscription at the entrance about the building – as if it was a landmark that would last 100 years, rather than just a very, very big tent.

Apart from trudging around a site that makes Slough look like Monte Carlo, what about the cars?

There was an awful lot of new metal: VW Up! Honda Civic, Fiat Panda, all of it looking very modern and professional - but it is hard to say there was a stand-out new model.

Probably the star of the show was the Jaguar C-X16 concept, which is a thing of beauty and an almost-production-ready hint of the next Jaguar sports car. This is the third time a Jaguar Land Rover product has been the star of a motorshow in recent years - the 2010 Jaguar C-X75 was head and shoulders above everything else in Paris and the Land Rover LRX (now the Evoque) stole the show at Detroit in 2008.

And how did the Germans react to being upstaged in their own backyard? They put the Jaguar Land Rover stand in the hall for tuning firms and small British sports car manufacturers, so they shared space with Startech, Alpina, Lotus and Aston Martin. The fact that the British-based JLR is now a serious company that makes £1 billion a year profit has passed them by - or perhaps that is why the company was tucked away?

In terms of themes for the future, the emphasis was not so much on electric cars - not least because Nissan did not bother to take a stand, so there was no Leaf (still the only fully electric car you can buy today). Instead, there was more focus on what could be done with conventional petrol and diesel engines.

This approach was epitomised by Ford, who showed one of the cleverest petrol engines yet developed. When fitted to the Focus, its new three cylinder unit is 1.0-litre, produces 120bhp and emits just 115g/km of CO2 - similar power to a typical 1.6 litre diesel with fuel economy that is only around 10% higher, but in a far smaller and lighter package. In fact the engine block is so tiny, you could completely cover it with an A4 sheet of paper.

Together with the 89 g/km Focus Econetic diesel, Ford was making the point that conventional engines still have plenty of room for improvement.

This is good news for the rest of us. If electric vehicles, hybrids, diesels and petrols fight an intense battle to provide the lowest energy consumption, it is us, the consumers, who will benefit; family-sized hatchbacks that can do almost 60 mpg with a 120bhp petrol engine, or 83mpg with a 104bhp diesel engine, would have been the stuff of science fiction even 10 years ago.