Obvious as it sounds, the aim of a concept car is to be conceptual. Often armed to the hilt with an array of space-aged gadgets, powered by impossibly efficient hybrid engines and styled in outlandish designs straight from the pages of comic books, modern day concepts are unashamedly extravagant breeding grounds for future motoring innovation.
Or at least they were when we last checked, because the brains at Citroën seem to think otherwise. Their latest idea off the drawing board is not so much a concept, but an anti-concept. Shedding the superfluous, the intriguingly named Citroën Cactus concept is motoring striped down to the bare necessities, retaining only the essentials. Apparently, windows don’t come under this category.
However, the pragmatic approach has allowed designers to get a little creative in other areas. The exterior is noticeably lacking in sharp points and angles, instead dominated by softer flowing lines and smooth surfaces from front to back in keeping with the minimalist feel. But there’s another headline grabber here: Citroën have invented the first bubbled wrap car. Several grey panels added to the doors and tailgate of the car conceal dozens of ‘Airbumps’, tiny capsules of air which act as cushions to resist scratches and absorb light impacts. This should not only eliminate the threat of the stray shopping trolley rampaging out of control through the supermarket car park, but also provide a way to relieve frustration whilst stuck in endless traffic jams on the commute to work.
As for the cabin, open-plan is an understatement. The panoramic sunroof is nothing too out of the box but the Cactus does away with B-pillars, side windows and the rear windscreen, meaning it probably isn’t a good idea to drive this car home from the hairdresser’s. The gearstick is another casualty of the clear out, replaced by push button controls on the dashboard. Interior design is no less quirky than you would expect from the French, with the sofa-like front seats and suitcase inspired storage areas and door handles all adorned in eye-catching orange and white upholstery. An 8 inch digital touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard is the car’s nerve centre, integrating all vehicle functions and instrument clusters.
Perhaps the most revolutionary feature is the new Hybrid Air powertrain, a full-hybrid engine mated to a compressed air and hydraulics system that delivers a colossal 94mpg.
However, the canvas is so blank that the French manufacturer hasn’t even specified what type of car this concept is meant to be. From its shape we can only gather that the Cactus is a compact crossover but with the dimensions of a small hatchback. Nevertheless, Citroën maintain the car is a “vision for future C-line models” and with the slightly larger but comparable C-Crosser being phased out last year, it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to see this design being developed and expanded to fill that void and revitalise Citroën’s fortunes in the compact SUV market, especially on the back of Renault’s recent Captur launch.