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Colourful in more ways than one, we talk you through what caught our eye at the Show, ranging from concept cars, to brands and models we wish Singapore had!

23 Mar 2023

On first glance, 'Colourful Experience' may not sound very inventive as a theme for an auto show; any lineup could fit this concept after all. But after spending a brief few hours at the 2023 Bangkok International Motor Show, it's likely you'll come round to the conclusion that this may well be the most faithful phrase to encapsulate what's been laid out for display.

A list of participants bursting with more than 40 car and bike brands means that even if we highlighted one model per marque to you, we'd end up with an article impossible to finish scrolling through.

As such, as the 44th iteration of Southeast Asia's biggest show (arguably) punches back into action, here's a condensed version of Sgcarmart's own highlights after some walking around - and through the eyes of a first-time attendee too.

1. Chinese marques make their presence felt: Introducing NETA, Haval and TANK, alongside BYD, MG and ORA

NETA is seeking to use Thailand as a base of its Southeast Asian expansion (NETA V pictured)
Buoyed by the slow-burning success of MG and BYD - and the recent tease of the ORA Good Cat - on our shores, it has gradually become clearer that Chinese carmakers have genuinely much to offer. 

One walk around the Bangkok Motor Show will show, however, that we've barely scratched the surface in Singapore. 

We'll start with names the average driver back home is unlikely to be familiar with.

The NETA S boasts sleek styling, more than 400bhp and butterfly opening doors
NETA, managed by Hozon Auto (the name is derived from 合众汽车 in Chinese, with 合众 meaning 'union'), has two production models on display at the show, the first of which is the NETA V. A budget-oriented vehicle (the car starts at just over S$21,000 in Thailand) obviously targeting the young consumer with the exuberant imagery used in marketing materials, the compact crossover offers up to 300km of range in base spec.

The NETA S, its other model here, is vastly different: An aerodynamic, sleek mid-sized electric sedan with over 400bhp and butterfly opening doors. Hozon is intending to use Thailand as a base of expansion in Southeast Asia, so don't be surprised if NETA comes to Singapore at some point. 

GWM's TANK brand is tasked with more premium, luxury SUVs, such as the TANK 500 Hybrid pictured
This theme of diversity continues at the Great Wall Motor (GWM) booth. Besides the Ora Good Cat (and its performance-oriented GT variant), gleaming SUVs of various sizes and price points also populate the stands here.

Haval, one of China's most prominent brands currently, has offerings that skew more towards the mass market; we spotted a couple of variants of the H6.

Meanwhile, TANK's 'luxury offroad SUV', the 500, immediately calls to mind the towering, brash machines often associated with America's GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac. The early push China has made with electrified drivetrains also shows here; these machines are all hybridised in some manner.

The MG Maxus 9 (also known as the Maxus Mifa 9) drummed up quite the crowd at the MG booth
We end this segment off with brands we already know - but with models that Singapore has yet to see. Apart from the stunning Han sedan and seven-seater Tang that have already been slated for Europe, BYD's massive booth here also includes the Frigate 07: A plug-in hybrid SUV that marks the second car in the firm's Warship series.

Meanwhile, MG's booth was buzzing with activity thanks to the MG Maxus 9, a slab-sided MPV with thin head lights and clean sheet metal fit for the future (we're thinking a greener Kia Carnival). If this comes to Singapore, it's possible this will be sold under the Maxus standalone brand instead, and as the Maxus Mifa 9. Claimed range is over 500km, from a large 90kWh battery. 

2. Cars we're hoping to see in Singapore: Honda Civic Type R, Maserati MC20 Cielo

In the flesh at last: After missing it at the Singapore Motor Show, we finally meet the FL5 here
The 2023 Singapore Motor Show may have had the privilege of witnessing the debuts of many exciting new cars for Southeast Asia, but the Bangkok Motor Show has bragging rights to hosting one of Japan's most worshipped names: Honda's FL5 Civic Type R.

Offered - like its predecessor - purely in liftback form, the car's styling may be more subdued than before, but its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces more power than ever in the nameplate's history - 311bhp and 422Nm of torque - thanks to upgrades like a revised turbocharger. Back in March 2022, a pre-production model of the FL5 broke the lap record at Japan's Suzuka Circuit for front-wheel drive cars. 

Maserati's MC20 Cielo boasts the same century sprint timing as the coupe, despite its extra weight
The FL5 is truly something to behold in person, but there is still no word on if it will ever come to Singapore officially. We'll keep hoping, though, even if we're not entirely confident. 

We also got the chance to see Maserati's MC20 Cielo up close here, which retains the MC20's butterfly doors with the roof lopped off. The car is only 65kg heavier despite the roof mechanism, thanks to its lightweight but highly rigid carbon fibre chassis. 

Also powered by Maserati's (relatively) new Nettuno V6 engine producing 621bhp, performance in the spider impressively remains unchanged, despite the extra weight for the roof mechanism. Just like the MC20, it'll do 0 to 100km/h under three seconds. 

3. Compact seven-seaters Singapore will probably never get

The Indonesian-produced Hyundai Stargazer feels quite like a baby Staria by drawing from its styling
The tax-heaviness of our local market inevitably prices out compact seven-seaters - only names like the Honda Freed and Toyota Sienta Hybrid continue to push through them today - but a trip to any other Southeast Asian capital city will immediately prove how popular they are. And why wouldn't they be, considering the practicality and affordability they promise?

Over time, they've gotten more stylish too. Case in point: The Hyundai Stargazer, which utilises Hyundai's latest design language (for its ICE cars) with the spaceship-like rounded front, and single-bar LED strip we first saw on the Staria.

Suzuki's XL7 is built atop of the same HEARTECT platform used for the firm's compact cars
Elsewhere in the Show, you'll find the Suzuki XL7, built on the HEARTECT platform underpinning other compact cars from the marque, including names we're more familiar with like the Swift and Ignis.

We also got up close with the Mitsubishi Xpander Cross - a higher-riding, more rugged-looking variant of the highly-successful Xpander proudly wearing the firm's Dynamic Shield front - that anyone who's crossed over into JB will certainly have seen. 

Nonetheless, these are cars ultimately confined within Indonesia, Malaysia, and of course Thailand - so don't expect to see any of these making the swim (or drive) over to us. 

4. One-offs and concepts to inspire: Porsche Thailand's Inspiration Car, and Toyota's Carbon Neutrality Concepts 

This one-of-a-kind Inspiration Car was hand-painted by specialists at Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
A motor show would not be complete without show cars - intriguing machines that will never be sold, but are nonetheless put on a pedestal (literally) for all to admire, or to look forward to as a sign of the future.

Coincidentally, Porsche recently celebrated 30 years in the nation with the unveiling of the 911 Carrera GTS 30 Years Porsche Thailand Edition. Paying homage to the different hues associated with each day of the week in Thai culture, seven iconic Paint to Sample colours are offered with the car including: Signalyellow, Rubystar, Signalgreen, Pastelorange, Rivierablue, Ultraviolet, and Firered.

At the Porsche booth here, you'll get to see the Inspiration Car that was made as part of the celebration. Hand-painted in all seven colours by body and paint specialists at Porsche Exclusive Manukfatur, there is perhaps no other vehicle here that better embodies 'Colourful Experience'. 

The THAI TAXI, with the unmistakable blue-green livery, previews what cleaner-energy taxis in Thailand could look like very soon
Carbon neutrality is one of the overarching concepts at the Toyota booth this year, with the manufacturer coming into the show under the theme of 'Toyota Multi-ways to a better world'. As to how said 'ways' take shape, it's displaying a multitude of electrified vehicles - including a version of its hybridised JPN TAXI for the Thai market decked out in the iconic yellow-green colours (denoting individually owned taxis), and its bespoke 'THAI TAXI' badge.

Concurrently, other concept cars - whose blink-and-you'll-miss exterior design tweaks over their bestselling production twins belie advanced drivetrains - make a stand at the booth. These include a Corolla Cross with a hydrogen combustion engine, and an all electric Toyota Hilux, named the Hilux REVO BEV Concept.

In case your memory needs jolting, here's what we experienced at the 2023 Singapore Motor Show! 

12 cars you shouldn't miss at the 2023 Singapore Motor Show on your first walk

Our top 10 picks of the 2023 Singapore Motor Show

Here are the best deals you could splurge on at Singapore Motor Show 2023 (aside from a new car)!

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