The exterior category did more than any other to determine this year's concept car winners. The top three cars in the exterior category also claimed overall honors, although they juggled places. The Seat Salsa topped the exterior category but took third place overall as Car of the Year.
The Salsa was introduced during the Geneva auto show. It represents design director Walter de' Silva's vision of Seat's future. 'We will clearly pay careful attention to the family feeling without forgetting each model must have its own personality,' de' Silva said. He views the car as a temperamental, Latin design with a flexible interior.
It was the exterior that seduced the judges at Geneva. The Salsa features two doors with a double-opening tailgate. The upper tailgate slides forward over the roof, while the lower part folds back. The car has no hood in front. Motorists gain access to the engine from below.
The car's silver body is striking, but the most distinctive feature is the lateral stripe running down toward the rear. The Salsa lacks a central B pillar, allowing a feeling of airiness in the compact car - even from the rear seats.
Although the car is sporty, it boasts simple lines. The rain-activated windshield wipers are hidden in the front columns to avoid aerodynamic turbulence. The powerful gas headlamps align themselves automatically as the steering wheel turns. Side lights and turn signals are fiber optic. Michelin's run-flat PAX tires proved popular with designers - they do not have to worry about storing a spare tire.
It is easy to understand how the Rossa made it in the top three for the exterior design award. It evokes memories of the older Ferrari Spiders while introducing a modern look. Viewed from any angle, the Rossa looks dramatic. The fin that rises from sill to frame is an interpretation of a key design feature from the 1958 Testa Rossa. Yet the fin also is functional, housing the turn signals. The nose of the Rossa incorporates a classic Ferrari radiator grille with sculptured air intakes. The final touch is the windshield, which has been reduced to a sliver of glass. It displaces the air but offers no protection against the rain.
The Mazda RX-Evolv was by far the nicest-looking concept at last year's Tokyo auto show. It is a sports car that also is a full four-seater. The RX-Evolv's distinctive look is defined by short overhangs that maximize interior space. The curved front end follows the pattern on later RX-7 models, while the large doors and sweeping roof line provide a classic coupe appearance. The RX-Evolv has a sports car presence, but the vehicle itself offers many attributes of a family sedan.