The Stars: 2015 Tokyo Motor Show

The Stars: 2015 Tokyo Motor Show

In its 44 years of existence, the Tokyo Motor Show has built a reputation for being at the forefront of showcasing innovation and technology, and exploring new possibilities in the world of motoring. The show now under way at the Tokyo Big Sight is no exception. More than 300 exhibitors —of cars, trucks, bikes and accessories — showcased their products, with an emphasis on autonomous driving and reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

As Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Nissan Motor, said during a media briefing attended by close to 150 journalists last week: “The pace of innovation has never been faster. “We are revolutionising the relationship between the car and the driver. In future, we can look forward to safer, cleaner, motoring.” For many in the motor industry, the future lies in electric vehicles and autonomous driving. This, many manufacturers at the show admit, is a never-ending challenge with a constant learning curve associated with ever-evolving technology.

Showcasing in their own backyard, the Japanese manufacturers were determined not to be outdone by their European rivals, and put on some innovative and attractive displays. From Nissan we had the Teatro for Dayz that appears to be part-transport, part-disco with the ability to project your favourite video on the white interior. On a more serious note, it also had the Gripz concept, which uses a hybrid EV system — the same that is found in the Leaf — while the IDS concept gives the driver the choice of either taking the wheel alone, or entrusting the driving of the car to a computer. It gets better! The Nissan IDS concept even learns your driving style and preferences and implements them. Perhaps the only thing it can’t do is make you a cappuccino for the early-morning drive to work… but then again, maybe it can! The 2020 Vision Gran Turismo from Nissan was another concept that attracted attention — especially from fans of the PlayStation 3 game Gran Turismo 6, which the car is based on. Toyota had on show the new fourth-generation Prius.

With the roof now 20mm lower and extended up front, the outline of the car no longer has that “frumpy” look and is pretty stylish. Also attracting plenty of attention was the two-door S-FR concept and C-HR concept, which would definitely add a new twist to the compact crossover segment if it does go into production. For the “wow ” factor one had to look no further than Toyota’s FCV Plus or Kikai, which were both making their world premieres. The Kikai is definitely one of those “out there” concepts the Tokyo Motor Show has become known for.

It’s a three-seater, with the driver sitting in the centre, and the engine and suspension are clearly visible. Chances are high it will never go into production, but it’s a super-fun car nonetheless. For Honda, much is expected from the long-awaited Civic Type R. Unfortunately, the planned launch of this vehicle later this month in South Africa has been postponed, but when it does eventually take place, expect a striking vehicle with a newly-developed 2-litre direct injection turbo engine producing the highest specs in the series’ history. Honda has also followed up the recent launch of the much-anticipated MX-5 with the NR-A — a vehicle that will look at home on the track and the road. Also on show at the Honda stand was the super sports model, the NSX, while the tentatively named FCV once again combines the technology of a battery and powertrain. The Koeru is Mazda’s next-generation crossover concept.

From Mitsubishi there was the eX concept, which merges the styling of an SUV with an EV system, in addition to a motor combining for a cruising distance of 400km. Worth noting is that autonomous driving technologies have been implemented. Last but by no means least, from Suzuki comes the Baleno, a B-segment hatchback, while the unusually named Mighty Deck is a lightweight pick-up truck that has an open deck that is height adjustable.

It also has the added benefit of a canvas top. Other cars that caught the eye were a super-hot Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, the Fiat Abarth 695 Biposto, Peugeot 508 GT and a Star Wars-like Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion, which is an autonomous research car from the German manufacturer. Oh, it is equipped with a handle, accelerator and brake — so all is not lost for those who still enjoy things the traditional way!

Bruce Fraser

*Catch IGNITION GT on DStv channel 189 this week for more on the Tokyo Motor Show. Click here for show times.