Geneva Motor Show - Automotive giants pitched smaller, nimbler cars to tempt cash-strapped consumers in a recovering European market, with compact vehicles taking centre stage at the Geneva show.

Small, punchy vehicles grabbed more of the spotlight than usual as one of the world's biggest and most diverse car shows opened its doors to the media on Tuesday.

The show began on an optimistic note as the industry celebrated signs that the European car market was finally returning to growth, but carmakers stressed that many consumers were still being drawn to the lower end of the market by weak economic conditions.

“Small cars are an inevitability in Europe,” Hyundai chief operating officer in Europe Allan Rushforth said.

The French players, who are specialists in the compact city car segment, were eager to show off their new goods, with Renault unveiling a more compact third-generation version of its popular Twingo.

“This is a product that will conquer a more feminine and younger clientele,” Renault commercial director Jerome Stoll explained.

The new Twingo, which comes in a range of bright colours and has been reshaped with five doors and the engine in the boot, will be produced alongside the next-generation Smart ForFour, which has yet to be presented.

The company hopes to repeat the success of the first generation of the Twingo, whose frog-like appearance, minimalist equipment and low price appealed to a younger crowd, with 2.5 million cruising out of showrooms since its launch in 1992.

Some 766 000 Twingo II's have also been sold since its launch in 2007.

The new Twingo faces off at the show against its compatriot Peugeot's new and niftier city car, the 108, built along side the new Aygo from Toyota and the updated Citroen C1.

The new “triplets” all come in a range of bright colours and, like Fiat's ever-popular 500, can be personalised.

“The A 'segment of compact cars' is important because it's still a big part of the European market,” explained Didier Leroy, CEO of Toyota Europe.

AFP