Tokyo motor show highlights
It's known for delivering some of the more head-turning concept cars ever conceived, and while the 2013 Tokyo motor show didn't disappoint with its ''smart mobility'' single-person vehicles and occasional head-turning one-off, the bi-annual extravaganza was more about a realistic glimpse into the future than a head-first dash into the year 2030.
Autonomous technologies and efficient hybrids took centre stage, but brands such as Nissan, Toyota, Mazda and Honda all reinforced the fun-of-driving appeal, increasingly important in attracting the elusive younger buyers.
And whereas Tokyo has traditionally been a motor show essentially dedicated to Japanese brands, 2013 was one where European makers tried to spoil the show.
A new Mini and Jaguar's F-Type Coupe were both revealed almost concurrently with the rival Los Angeles motor show.
In a nod to the importance of the US market - still in post-GFC recovery mode - Subaru snubbed its home show in favour of LA to showcase its latest performance hero, the new WRX.
The IDx Nismo bears similar traits to the company's longstanding but now retired 200SX and draws on the iconic Datsun 510 coupe from the 1970s. Another concept, the IDx Freeflow, was unveiled and is based on the same platform but looks less racey.
Both concepts represent a new design approach from Nissan, where enthusiasts joined the company's engineers and designers to build up the ultimate concept car, designed to appeal to ''digital natives'' - those born after 1990.
''IDx Nismo and IDx Freeflow show how Nissan is using a new and innovative product development methods to meet the needs of younger customers who have novel, exciting ideas, and engage with them to build the cars they want,'' the company says.
Nissan says the IDx Freeflow will be powered by a small capacity turbo four cylinder of between 1.2 litres and 1.5 litres while the IDx Nismo will have a 1.6-litre, likely the same 140kW engine as the Pulsar SSS and Juke ST-S. Both will be mated to a CVT automatic and drive the rear wheels.
The FCV, or Fuel Cell Vehicle, is the DNA of a car Toyota says it will begin selling in Japan by 2016.
Unlike other hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, which have been produced in small quantities and leased for short-term ownership schemes, Toyota plans to sell the FCV alongside the rest of its range.
Being green doesn't come cheap though, as the FCV is likely to cost around $100,000.
Toyota's theme for the show was ''fun to drive, again'' and the brand revealed a poster child for that motto. The FV2 (or Fun Vehicle 2) is a concept is aimed at the P-platers of tomorrow, ''around 2030'', when driving will be more enjoyable and the car can sense the driver's emotion.
It looks like something out of Back to the Future, and has the rider standing up behind the windscreen and leaning to turn corners.
Yamaha is getting back in the car game with the help of the man responsible for the legendary McLaren F1.
The Japanese bike manufacturer revealed at the Tokyo show that it is the first customer of Gordon Murray's iStream production process and will launch a city car called the Motiv.
Murray, who also designed McLaren and Brabham formula one cars, has spent the last decade working on iStream - a revolutionary way to build cars that is cheaper and more flexible than traditional construction.
Murray created two city cars, the petrol-powered T25 and electric T27, to showcase iStream and the Motiv borrows several design elements from both.
The tiny machine has two seats and is powered by either an electric motor or a 1.0-litre three-cylinder Yamaha motorcycle engine.
Based on the Jazz city car, the Vezel is Honda's answer to the booming compact SUV market.
Due on sale in Japan by the end of the year it will be ''a bit more than 12 months away'' for buyers in this part of the world, bringing the choice of a 1.5-litre petrol or hybrid power.
Attractive and looking roomy inside, Honda claims the oddly named Vezel belongs to a new category, blending together ''the dynamic qualities of an SUV, the elegance of a coupe and the functionality of a minivan''.
Lexus RC Coupe
The RC is a two-door version of the IS compact sedan and is tasked with challenging the likes of the Mercedes C-Class Coupe, BMW 4-Series and Audi A5.
Engines will likely be shared with the regular IS, although the Coupe could also benefit from the new generation 2.0-litre turbo Lexus also showed off in Tokyo. Lexus will have a high-performance RC F powered by the same 5.0-litre V8 as the IS F.
Mitsubishi Concept GC-PHEV
It's been a long time coming, but Mitsubishi is finally giving a tease of the all-new Pajero in the form of the Concept GC.
Dubbed Grand Cruiser, the full-sized SUV gets a plug-in hybrid drivetrain in its concept guise (hence the PHEV tag) and it also features Mitsubishi's latest all-wheel-drive system. The GC also promises ''next generation preventative safety features and driver support technology through mobile network connectivity''.
It's a new Mini, but you might have to have a second look to spot it. Then again, why mess with a successful formula?
Larger than its seven-year-old predecessor (it's 96mm longer and 42mm wider), the new Mini hatchback is the first in a series of BMW Group models to benefit from a modular front-wheel drive platform structure.
It will get a new family of 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with a Cooper S powered by a larger 2.0-litre when it goes on sale here next year.
Jaguar F-Type coupe
The long-awaited hardtop version of its successful F-Type roadster, the new F-Type Coupe shares doors and all forward panels with the cabriolet, but has a unique roof and rear. Jaguar says the body structure is almost twice as stiff as the convertible.
Like the drop-top, it comes in a choice of three engines: two supercharged V6s and a range-topping supercharged V8 producing 404kW and 680Nm of torque.
Arguably the best news with the Jaguar F-Type coupe is that it has a vaguely useable boot. The claim is the 407-litre luggage area can take two golf bags, which is more than the near-useless load area in the roadster.
Sales of the F-Type coupe are due to start in the UK in May.
According to the Japanese brand the quirky BladeGlider has been designed to offer ''drivers and passengers a new sense of glider-like driving pleasure''.
Nissan says it is a ''prototype of an upcoming production vehicle that demonstrates the innovation and excitement of the Nissan brand'', meaning a road-going model could be seen within a couple of years.
The aerodynamically focused BladeGlider borrows its styling cues from the brand's DeltaWing-based Le Mans racer, with a norm-challenging narrow front-end and broad rear track that it says helps ''generate downforce and enhance manoeuvrability''.
The open-top BladeGlider features a three-seat layout, with the driver front and centre and two rear seats creating - as Nissan puts it - ''a shared experience of 'free soaring' for all''.
Where does the engine fit? There isn't one. The BladeGlider features in-wheel electric motors at the rear, with a lithium-ion battery pack slotting under the back seats.
Subaru Cross Sport
The Cross Sport is Subaru's idea of a more practical version of the popular Subaru BRZ sports car, which is a twin of the Toyota 86.
While executives are at pains to point out the Cross Sport is very much a concept with no production plans, if interest levels are high enough it would be difficult to ignore.
Driving the rear wheels, the Cross Sport concept features an updated BRZ nose but with a stubby tail that liberates more rear head room and gives the sporty four-seater a unique flavour compared with the more traditional coupe body.
Insiders suggest it's a way for Subaru to explore new opportunities outside the traditional sedans and wagons it is known for.
New wagons are few and far between these days as manufacturers fall over themselves trying to fill (or create) the next SUV niche. But the Levorg bucks the trend with a more traditional wagon body draped over high performance mechanicals. There's the choice of two turbocharged four-cylinders, a 125kW 1.6-litre and a 221kW 2.0-litre.
While power outputs will be reduced for Australia due to our lower fuel grades it still promises a WRX-like punch under acceleration.
Better still, the Levorg could be coming here. Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior has asked the brand's Japanese parent for the model as an addition to the local line-up. To slot between the Impreza small car and Liberty mid-sizer, Senior says it has ''huge appeal for us''.
''It is one that we've put our hand up [for] and the discussions have started about the possibility of if and then when.
''The appeal for me in this is that it is a new genre and Subaru has historically been pretty good at identifying opportunities - look at Forester, look at XV, et al - and I think this sports tourer concept where you have a high performance car that also has the versatility.''
-Fairfax News Australia