New versions of the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, long-time competitors in the UK small car market, will be among many important models unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show n a fortnight.
Both are larger than the models on sale now and Citroen will launch the C3 which fits in the range between the continuing Saxo and Xsara. All three newcomers will be in UK showrooms next year.
Frankfurt, held every other year, alternates with Paris as Europe's premier autumn show.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this week started a marketing campaign for next year's Birmingham motor show. The long campaign is because the organisers are aware the Birmingham NEC event is losing its appeal. Frankfurt will capture attention around the world with debut makers from Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and many other companies.
Nissan shows the new Primera, and Honda unveils the little Jazz, but for the UK market the Ford, VW and Citroen models are the most important.
Ford, trying to reverse a loss-making slump in European market share, will show the first Fiesta not to be built at Dagenham, east London.
Ian McAllister, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, described new Fiesta as “most important” and said the 1976 original effectively created the small car sector.
The longer, wider and taller newcomer will be imported from Germany and Spain. After Dagenham stops building the current model, the plant will be converted into a diesel engine centre. More than 2.5m new Fiestas have been sold in Britain.
Styled to look similar to the Focus, the Fiesta will continue the brand's success, say Ford executives. It will be 5dr-only at first with a 3dr, StreetKa convertible and mini-MPV to follow.
Volkswagen's new Polo, with longer wheelbase and body, is the fourth generation of the brand. It will be available from launch as a 3dr and 5dr with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines.
The entry-level Polo uses a new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder 65bhp engine and the Passat's 1.9-litre, 100bhp turbodiesel engine will also be in the range.
VW claims Polo “will move the small car benchmarks of quality and safety to a new level” – Ford claims Fiesta has “best in class driving quality”.
Citroen, whose UK sales revival has been based around the Picasso, recaptures something of its reputation for originality with the C3.
The styling is based on two arches running the length of the body. C3 is almost as tall (1.52m) as it is wide (1.67m) and will be the first to use new 1.4-litre 70bhp and 92bhp turbodiesel engines. They were jointly developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and Ford.