2021 Shanghai Motor Show: report and the best cars

Auto Shanghai returns to its natural place in the calendar and with in-person attendees, though with hefty Coronavirus protocols in place

With the Coronavirus pandemic postponing last year’s Beijing motor show until September, Shanghai’s turn to host the 2021 version of China’s main motor show marks the beginning of a return to normality for the auto show calendar - but the show’s organisers took no chances. 

All in attendance have been required to upload a nucleic acid test - the most stringent testing method for detecting Coronavirus - to gain entry. For those in the clear, eight halls jam packed with brands, many of which didn’t exist only months ago, await. 

It may be only seven months since the last A-list show in China but with this the only major show due to be held anywhere in the world this year, there’s no shortage of new cars to see. And you can click through our gallery to get a virtual taste of this year’s show floor.

Mercedes not only showed off in the metal its new EQS - it’s all-electric alternative for the S-Class with a 478 mile range - but gave the world premiere of the new EQB, a small electrified SUV very clearly based on the GLB, and sharing duties at the smaller end of the EQ line-up with the GLA, using the same technology and platform but boasting up to seven seats. 

Audis are big in China - both in terms of sales and wheelbase. Perhaps that’s why alongside the new, all-electric A6 e-tron concept and the new Q4 e-tron, the brand also introduced the Audi A7L, exclusively for the Chinese market. Not only does it boast a longer wheelbase than the regular A7 (a massive show of prestige for Chinese buyers), it eschews the fastback styling of the A7 elsewhere for a more traditional saloon look. 

Citroen seems to have found a return to form with the first in the metal showing of the C5 X, with its category bending looks. Quirkiness will be the main selling point in a European market rapidly becoming dominated by crossovers and SUVs.

Speaking of European SUVs, Volkswagen unveiled its new ID.6 - its largest all-electric car on the MEB platform to date. But for the moment the two versions, the X and Cross, made by VWs two respective joint venture partners are for the Chinese market only. 

MG enthusiasts will be thrilled to see a new two seater sports car, even if it is electric. Said to boast acceleration times of sub three seconds and a range of 500 miles the performance of the new Cyberster is obviously in Tesla Roadster baiting territory. The question is, will it be produced? The E-motion concept from four years ago looks the more production ready car, but according to SAIC’s vice president of design, Shao Jingfeng, the Cyberster will see production and around 70% of the look of the concept will be carried over.

At last year’s Beijing show, Lynk & Co revealed the Zero concept, pointing towards a new coupe-SUV. At the 2021 Shanghai show the production version has been revealed by a new Geely brand called Zeekr. Called the 001, the sleek lines are largely carried over from the concept. Geely group desperately needs to up its EV game in China, the question is whether it will come to Europe as a Lynk & Co. 

In a sign of how far Chinese developments in autonomous driving have gone, three cars on display at the show were fitted with advanced Lidar systems for partially automated driving, all of which will see production within the next 12 months. Xpeng’s P5 will be produced before the end of this year and the Nio ET7 and Arcfox αS will follow in 2022.

Chinese shows wouldn’t be complete without some offbeat newcomers though, and the honour of the most eye-popping car this year goes to the Ora Punk Cat. Obviously Beetle inspired - the 1930s version that is - the retro lines almost work and are far more a Beetle for today than any of the more recent VW incarnations.  

Check out more of the cars at the Shanghai Auto Show below... 

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