Has the automotive landscape changed drastically since the last Motorshow was held in Singapore, more than two years ago? If the impossible-to-miss presence of EVs this time - spanning nondescript to whimsical - is anything to go by, the short answer is yes.
Having been treated to an in-depth preview, however, we'd also happily declare that some of our favourite cars are alive and kicking. Some have been reimagined; others follow the playbooks long written for them, and which we've also always enjoyed them for. In between, fresh names sprout forth.
As you head into Level 3 of the Suntec Convention Centre, here's a list of 12 cars we think you shouldn't miss on your first walk around.
1. VW ID. Buzz / ID. Cargo
By far one of the most captivating stars you'll find at the Motorshow is a storied vehicle whose magnetism is at once fresh yet also familiar.
Poster star of the hippie movement - and more recent bridal carriage to couples with deeper pockets - the Volkswagen Kombi bus has been reimagined for the 2020s, and surges back onto our shores with pure electric power. It's called the ID. Buzz now too, in line with the nomenclature of the VW's other bespoke EVs, the ID.3 and ID.4 (the latter also graces VW's booth).
Like other ID. models, the ID. Buzz is built atop of the firm's modular MEB platform. The two-tone paintwork and block-on-wheels shape make its homage to its ancestors clear, but being built electric from the ground-up means it offers a silent drive, a more planted ride and signifcantly more interior space than before. IKEA runs will be a walk in the park; 1,121 litres of hauling capacity await even with five seated comfortably on board.
Psst... We'll tell you first that the ID. Buzz isn't slated to go on sale till year-end. That means the Motorshow might be one of the rare chances it in the flesh metal here for a while.
2. BYD Seal
Electric carmaker BYD is debuting not one, but two new models at the Motorshow, both built on its bespoke e-platform 3.0. Fun fact: Since they're not for sale yet (just like the ID. Buzz), the units on display come in left-hand-drive.
While the tinier Dolphin will charm with its supermini proportions, we think it's the Seal that will turn heads at BYD's booth. This is proof that an aerodynamically-informed design doesn't have to be controversial. Curved headlights cut into the front bumper with their DRLs; the car appears to crouch forward, ready to leap; and its coupe-like silhouette meets a full-length light bar at the rear.
Taking aim squarely at the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3, it's also safe to say that the sedan will be the most dynamic vehicle we've gotten from BYD yet.
A single-motor rear-wheel drive variant is your entry point to the range. But for the more manic amongst us, the Seal also comes with dual-motors, sending power to both front and rear axles. BYD quotes a century sprint time of just 3.9 seconds with this one. Whew.
3. BMW M3 Competition Touring (with M xDrive)
Wagons - or 'Touring' models, as BMW calls them - have been thankfully retained over the years in BMW's 3 Series lineup. For decades, however, BMW M had never made a series production wagon of the M3 - that is until June 2022 hit, and the first-ever M3 Touring was revealed at Goodwood.
Less than six months later, the car has made its way to our very own shores. The wagon is offered exclusively as the M3 Competition Touring with M xDrive, and is powered by the BMW's turbocharged straight-six. This gives the car 503bhp and an incredible 650Nm of peak torque between 2,750rpm and 5,500rpm (you'll find the redline at 7,200rpm).
At the same time, the wagon's M xDrive all-wheel drive system ensures fully variable distribution of power between the front and rear wheels, while maintaining a rear-wheel bias. The intended result? Maximum traction even as the car delivers a decidedly BMW-like driving experience. (Don't worry, you can still engage 2WD.)
In case you need to know, the M3 Touring Competition has a 500-litre trunk - or just 20 litres more than the sedan. Still, we suspect that's not at the top of the heads of those who've already bought it.
4. Subaru WRX Wagon
If the BEVs aren't your cup of tea, take comfort in the fact that the combustion-engined wagon mania continues at Subaru. While the throngs may flock instinctively to the white BRZ, we think the more utilitarian but equally delightful all-wheel drive WRX Wagon also deserves your attention.
In its second generation as a standalone nameplate - fifth overall - the Rex returns for 2023 in both sedan and wagon forms. Both are powered by the same turbocharged 2.4-litre flat-four engine, producing 271bhp and 350Nm of torque. But the WRX Wagon receives better gains in chassis torsional stiffness this time round - a 44 per cent improvement, compared to the Sedan's 28 per cent.
Surely to the dismay of some, the Wagon (like its twin) will be offered as standard with an 'eight-speed' Lineartronic CVT automatic. It is, however, more fuel-saving than before thanks to an Auto Start Stop system - a first for the firm's signature sports car.
Subaru also says the CVT is more dynamic in its current-gen iteration. Sport mode ('S') delivers 30 per cent faster up/down shifts than default. To go all out, select Sport Sharp ('S#'), and the speed gets bumped up 50 per cent.
Oh, did we forget to mention it's a wagon?
5. Nissan Ariya
Nissan is no stranger to electrification - both full and partial - but the Ariya properly kicks its next era off with tech, power, range and sophistication (yes) unlike anything ever seen before from the carmaker.
Built on the Alliance-developed CMF-EV platform, Nissan says the crossover delivers exceptional handling thanks to the central, underfloor placement of its battery. A low centre of gravity and near-equal weight distribution are enabled as a result, while giving the Ariya a flat floor for passengers.
Furthermore, twin-motor variants of the Ariya are offered with Nissan's new electronically controlled four-wheel drive system - what Nissan has called e-4orce.
It's on the inside too where the crossover will have occupants rubbing their eyes with its pleasing design. A minimalist dashboard features touch buttons overlaid on a brushed wooden panel, while treating the driver to a fresh twin-spoke steering wheel.
6. Mini Strip
Why take a stop to check out this Mini Strip you ask? For starters, unlike the rest of the cars mentioned here, there's no chance that you'll be able to see this one-off Mini again on our roads after this motor show.
There's also the fact, of course, that this Mini Strip is also designed by renowned British designer Paul Smith, adding an additional stylish touch on top of what is the already stylish Mini Electric.
And you'll likely never be able to see another Mini quite like this one, at least in the near future.
Designed to shine a spotlight on sustainability in automotive design and manufacturing, the Mini Strip stands out with its exposed body panels, which proudly show various marks and identify the car as a functional object.
The interior of the Mini Strip, meanwhile, takes minimalism to a new level, with the infotainment module in other Minis here replaced with a smartphone holder, while the steering wheel has been reduced to the most essential functions. There's also extensive use of recyclable cork in the cabin, and seatbelts complete in a bright orange finish for that final stylish touch. Miss this, and you likely won't be able to see it again.
7. Peugeot 408
And here's another stylish number for you to catch: The Peugeot 408.
Bringing the distinctive design of Peugeot's lineup to a new level, this Peugeot 408 is not only making its first South East Asian debut here in Singapore, but is also debuting the firm's new lion crest logo here.
Look beyond that dynamic front and you'll also note the 408 comes with an attractive gently sweeping roof, as well as all the strong presence that comes with a crossover thanks to its black lower body panels. There's also 20-inch monolithe alloy rims to boot!
Open the doors to the Peugeot 408 and you'll find a new i-Cockpit within, sporting a 10.0-inch infotainment system that sits lower than the digital instrument cluster so it is always within easy reach.
The Peugeot 408 will retail here with a 1.2-litre, 128bhp engine that produces 260Nm of torque.
8. Hyundai Ioniq 5 (First 100)
The Ioniq 5 is no stranger to our local roads. But the car on display at this motor show is different.
Built right here in Singapore at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre, this Ioniq 5 is not only the first road-legal all-electric vehicle to be assembled in Singapore, but is also part of the first batch of 100 vehicles that will all sport special commemorative plates, Gravity Matte Gold exteriors, Dark Pebble Grey interiors, as well as signature 'First 100' badges.
So, you won't just be missing a car, but a piece of Singapore history if you don't catch this Ioniq 5 at the Hyundai booth.
Bidding for these special plates is currently underway, set to end at 6:00pm come 19 January 2023, and the proceeds from this exercise are set to go to the President's Challenge. The first 100 Ioniq 5s will also come in the highest trim with dual-motors and all-wheel drive.
A two-wheel drive, standard range, 'Exclusive' trim Ioniq 5 will also be available from the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre, specially designed to be eligible for registration here with a Cat A COE.
The first 100 Ioniq 5s, meanwhile, will start from $147,800, although this price is exclusive of COE and before the price of the license plate.
9. Mazda MX-30
The Mazda MX-30 is not only the firm's first all-electric vehicle, it also sports some swanky freestyle rear doors, and has quite the attractive sheet metal on its exterior to boot. These three reasons alone should be enough to convince you to make sure you stop by to see the MX-30.
But the special touches for this car don't stop there. Open those doors and you'll find an interior that makes use of cork, as well as a touchscreen control panel for the air-conditioning controls, said to be the first in a Mazda.
If all these things are tugging at your heartstrings, you'll also want to know that the Mazda MX-30 will come with a 143bhp electric motor that produces 270Nm of torque. Powering this motor in turn, is a 35.5kWh battery, which gives this electric crossover a claimed 224km range.
10. MG 4 EV
It's quite indisputable the moment you set your eyes on the MG 4 EV: This is one of those electric cars that looks like it's ready to zip into the future (or another world).
Slanted air intakes flank its muscular bumper just below its furrowed headlights up front. Then, rising belt lines along its sides lead to a near-full-width LED taillight with criss-crossing patterns. A twin aero spoiler caps off its tailgate.
But the 4 EV doesn't just break ground for MG from a visual standpoint. Its arrival in Singapore also marks the debut of the firm's proprietary Modular Scalable Platform (MSP).
With its new architecture, MG says the 4 EV is built with 50:50 weight distribution for better handling. It's also rear-wheel driven, with an electric motor producing 201bhp and 250Nm of instant torque. This decidedly more exciting driving experience is achieved even as the hatchback manages a WLTP-rated range of 450km from its 64kWh battery.
11. Toyota GR 86
We know - the GR 86 doesn't technically count as new anymore in the eyes of many enthusiasts. Still, we think there's still much to celebrate about it officially launching on our shores.
Third in our local GR lineup - after the GR Supra and GR Yaris - the GR 86 is the rare, pure-blooded sports today that features an engine not downsized from its predecessors. Power and acceleration have increased by way of a 2.4-litre boxer engine producing 228bhp, helping the coupe launch itself from rest to 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds. It'll go on to reach a top speed of 226km/h.
Nonetheless, sheer straight line performance isn't what we love the model for anyway. While maintaining its low centre of gravity, the GR 86's wide use of aluminium also boosts its lightweight properties. These promise to make the car just as manic a machine to take around bends as its predecessor.
Best of all? It's arriving in Singapore with the option of a six-speed manual transmission.
12. Volkswagen Golf R
If you're on the lookout for something that blends performance with everyday practicality, and the BMW M3 Touring is out of your budget, you'll want to make another stop at the Volkswagen booth to check this hot hatch out.
It's a name you might be familiar with - the Volkswagen Golf R - and with a total power output of 315bhp, as well as peak torque of 420Nm, it's quite the hot hatch indeed. Volkswagen states that all this power will send the Golf R to 100km/h from a standstill in just 4.7 seconds, thanks to its seven-speed dual-clutch system as well as an all-wheel drive system.
On the outside, the Golf R stands apart from other regular Golfs thanks to its different bumpers, air intakes, as well as that high-gloss black rear diffuser, which also houses a pair of tailpipes at either end.
All these, of course, come on top of the blue strip that runs across the car's front, and those blue brake calipers.
Make this your car to end your first motor show walkabout after you've had your fill of electric vehicles. You will regret not taking the extra steps to see it.