Paris needs sedans

Chic stands well in front of timelessness. It’s in this way that people á la mode walk around the stubbornly consistent 19th century architecture of Paris. The prospect of constructing modern towers has been uniquely probited by the tunnels and catacombs below, and so Haussmann’s (assigned by Napoleon III) vision of a uniform city is likely secure for centuries. It’s now an actively protected part of the iconic city. Regardless of what design is up to in any given season, always prominent in Paris of course, the backdrop of tradition is crucial for its special aesthetics.

We’ve seen the Metro deco added to the cityscape, which has been stuck in time ever since, and buses still ding as though they are wooden carriages at heart. Their imaginary brass bells match the classical fittings that remain in the surrounding cafés and shopping passages. They’re of course modern hybrids, and the bell is simply a reproduced recording. Strange. But it works. Taxis are still noir and carry glowing lights on top, adding only daytime running lights to the set.

Peugeots, Renaults, Mercedes-Benz, Volvos, Volkswagens, Infinitis… So long as it’s a sedan. Well, in truth not all of them. But unlike the private market, the three-box format has the upper hand here. The Renault Scenics, Toyota Priuses, even Dacia Dusters don the colours and that illuminated sign like relative strangers tagging along to a party. They don’t really know whose or what occasion it is, they’re just there. Not really fitting in. You see, to me, the Parisian taxi game is a sedans only event.

Look, I get the whole SUV fad. And that’s what it is, a fad. We lately want height, presence, escapism. The SUV delivers, becomes fashionable, Audi makes some fancy ones, is the forefront of automotive design. But not so the taxi. There’s no personal image to the black cab, only a uniform identity with its priority in being recognizable. In Paris in particular, they blend into the scenery, becoming one with the city, and drawing focus to the passenger. It’s part of tradition, not fashion.

It’s for this reason that I don’t believe the new Citroen DS7 will be soon displaying those classic lights on its roof en masse. Or at least not looking right in so doing. The more conservative Peugeot 508 is far more fit for purpose, elegant but not something for one’s own vanity. Because it’s a sedan. And there’s demand to back this up.

Sure, the Citroen C6 and C5 have fallen into quiet memory, but someone out there asked for the Renault ‘Talisman’. Apparently the soul of the Laguna has finally found a resting place in this French only special. The gendarme seem to have a particular fondness for it too, and it can often be seen punctuating the Parisian traffic with its flashing blues and old-fashioned siren.

The classic, timeless, smart shape of the sedan in elegant French flavour lives on then. Passengers are flattered by a muted backdrop, the streets are kept uniform, the aesthetic is protected. But there are limited choices; only Peugeot and Renault responsible for holding the torch. Unless you want to consider the Citroën Elysée, a strange, C3… sedan? Brought in from China, this is how desperate the situation is!

That’s why they use the Peugeot 508 for almost all private hire cars. It’s an attractive, stylish car, just not a personal statement. But above the 508 there is only… Mercedes-Benz. And they gladly fill the gap. Where’s the C6? A 608? The Renault Safrane? They need a plush diplomat’s car. Except, maybe the German E & S classes are like the gargantuan Roman relics dotted about Paris. A bit irrelevant, excessive today. And that’s why 508s and Talismans flow purposefully in and out of the Palais de l’Élysée, for today’s President Macron. So long as it’s a sedan.

Decadent carriages. Seem a bit irrelevant today.


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