Citroen Aircross Concept (2015): a bumpy car for bumpy roads

Published: 08 April 2015

► SUV concept for Shanghai 2015
► Design influenced by the Cactus
► Plug-in hybrid powertrain

Thought the Cactus was a brave one-off? Say hello to the Citroen Aircross concept, a design study that takes the Cactus’s ‘bar of soap with bumpy bits’ design language and applies it to a compact SUV canvas. And although the car pictured here is very much a concept, it doesn’t take a giant mental leap to imagine many aspects of its design in production.

The Citroen Aircross will be displayed at the 2015 Shanghai motor show later in April. No coincidence there – it’s not only prime SUV territory but also Citroen’s biggest market, making up 25% of the marque’s total sales at present.

Citroen Aircross concept: the design story

According to Citroen’s designers this is a friendlier kind of SUV, intended to look cuddly rather than aggressive. While the Cactus is (in)famous for its ‘airbumps’ – squidgy pads of rubber along its flanks to resist parking dings and other urban scrapes – the Aircross gets ‘alloy bumps.’ These are larger and more robust, and made from a motorsport-derived absorbent aluminium foam.

At the front, there’s a similar two-tier light treatment to the C4 Picasso, and blacked out pillars give the roof a ‘floating’ appearance. Citroen calls the aluminium D-ring shapes across the sidewindows in line with the rear doors ‘air signs’, as they’re partly there to direct airflow along the car’s flanks. ‘Extractor’ vents adjacent to the front and rear wheelarches and cutouts in the doormirrors are also intended to cut drag.

The concept sits on 22-inch wheels, with special tyres designed for the show car by Continental.

Citroen Aircross: the interior

There’s not much in the way of switchgear inside. Most of the Aircross’s functions are displayed on a head-up display and two 12-inch HD screens, operated via touchpads on either side of the steering wheel. The two screens can be put together to function as one on the dashboard, or one can be removed and passed from passenger to passenger to play music, watch films and browse the internet.

The Aircross is a four-seater with ‘kingsize’ seats, each with microphones and speakers ‘to encourage dialogue between passengers’, in Citroen’s words. Because turning and talking to each other is clearly too much effort. Occupants can also turn off the speakers in their chair and exist in a ‘sound bubble’ if they’re feeling unsociable.

And if they are feeling sociable, there are two webcams either side of the cabin in the doorframes, ‘for taking photos of road adventures and creating an album that can be shared on social networks’, says Citroen.

All those straps along the seat and centre console are intended to be a suitcase-style ‘travel motif,’ by the way. Designers, eh.

A plug-in hybrid powertrain

In the Aircross’s nose is a 218bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, joined by a 95bhp electric motor on the rear axle. It takes its energy from lithium-ion batteries, which Citroen says would take around three and a half hours to charge from a mains socket.

A low-speed all-electric driving mode is possible, with a range of around 31 miles.

Incidentally, Citroen’s calculations suggest this concept would theoretically be really quite quick. With engine and motor working together there’s 313bhp on tap, getting the Aircross from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. Despite that, Citroen reckons CO2 emissions would be rated at only 39g/km CO2 and fuel economy at well over 100mpg.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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