Citroen shook up the crossover class with the C4 Cactus last year, and the brand is now looking to replicate its success in the SUV market with the all-new Aircross concept. Set to debut at next week’s Shanghai Motor Show, the Aircross hints at what we can expect from Citroen’s forthcoming Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe rival.
It’s not the company’s first foray into the family SUV market – that honour goes to the slow-selling C-Crosser – but the car is the first Citroen to feature plug-in hybrid technology.
Beneath the Cactus-inspired exterior, the Aircross is powered by a 218bhp 1.6-litre THP petrol engine, paired to a 95bhp rear-mounted electric motor. This enables 31 miles of all-electric driving. The Aircross also promises a 4.5-second 0-62mph time, plus 166mpg economy and CO2 emissions of just 39g/km.
The concept is similar in size to the Santa Fe, measuring 4,580mm long, 2,100mm wide and 1,800mm tall. However, Citroen design director Alexandre Malval told Auto Express that a production version is likely to lose the show car’s 22-inch alloys and slightly inflated stance.
Familiar Citroen design cues such as the two-tier light structure and chevron design can be seen on the front end, while the floating roof bars have been borrowed from the C4 Cactus. Citroen has also developed a fresh take on the unique honeycomb-style Airbump design from the Cactus for a more rugged SUV.
The Airbumps can been seen on the lower section of the front bumper and sills, with the aluminium foam structure providing protection from nicks and scrapes. The high waistline puts emphasis on the car’s exaggerated proportions, while the wraparound cockpit and gradually sloping roofline add a sportier edge.
The rear-hinged doors are unlikely to make it any further than the Shanghai stand, but they give access to a cabin that’s centred around passenger comfort – highlighted by the four-seat layout inspired by furniture design.
Each cocooning leather seat comes with built-in speakers, which amplify other passengers’ voices to make in-car communication easier, while there are two 12-inch HD touchscreens on the dashboard. These relay driving data, plus allow passengers to watch films, use Internet-based apps or program the navigation. Content can be virtually ‘passed’ between the displays using hand gestures, plus the driver can merge the screens into one.
A huge centre console runs through the spine of the cabin, creating more space for those inside as well as more storage compartments. Citroen has added innovative storage cubbies in the dashboard and door panels, too.
Bosses would not be drawn on when the concept would make the transition to production, but have stated that the “Aircross illustrates the brand’s international ambitions” and that it’s “intended for sale around the world”.
Alexandre Malval explains the Citroen Aircross
Citroen’s design director explains the thinking behind the Aircross concept and what it could mean for future Citroen models…
There’s clearly an evolution of the C4 Cactus’ styling on the Aircross; will that be limited to SUVs?
“This is the first answer, we believe there is no limit and could use this style for different silhouettes. So, it could be sedan, SUV or MPV. We want the customer to see that the Cactus has given birth to different types of Citroen products.”
Will this style become Citroen DNA?
“We are confident with this aesthetic and believe it will keep us separate from Peugeot and DS, as there are now three brands in the group. The idea is that each one will evoke something different for customers.”
Why did you modify the Airbump from the Cactus?
“It’s another adaptation of Airbump. It emphasises the body, helps to lift the car and make it more SUV. It has a more technological and dynamic feel now.”
Are you confident the SUV market will keep growing?
“It’s difficult to say, but all of the studies that we do show that it continues to grow wherever you are in the world. But maybe it will change – a new vehicle is capable of changing the fashion.”
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