Peugeot's new HR1 urban concept car which will be seen for the first time when the Paris Motor Show opens on Saturday, was created to “appeal to young city dwellers.” We've heard that before, but this time it really does look like they've “nailed it!” The styling, scrumptious seats, electric scissor doors to facilitate access in tight spots, a heads-up display for the driver, a reconfigurable instrument panel which uses a “movement recognition” system (allowing the driver to scroll through functions and select settings with hand movements), and just so the passenger doesn't feel left out, they get a tablet computer which slides into the glovebox and can even share data wirelessly from the driver’s display. Oh, and it gets 81 mpg.
Yep, it's the night before the first press day at Paris and I have yet to see the car in the … err, metal, and the embargo has just lifted on the press info and even before I'd read the press release, I was drooling over the pictures.
Every manufacturer targets young urban professionals – they earn a lot more money than rural folk, there's more of them, and if you can get them involved with your brand early, you have a customer for life.
So the seduction of this prime target group is very important to an automotive brand and Peugeot's designers can feel very proud of their achievement if the images and info are anything to go by.
The seats alone (see the image gallery) are incredibly appealing and I'm not even sure why.
Next up are the electric scissor doors. Half the world's population lives in cities, and soon it will be two thirds, and it's hard to imagine how tight many of Europe's cities are unless you've driven there. There's almost a daily exercise in squeesing out a half opened door without taking paint off and the scissor doors make a lot of sense in a city such as Paris where road space is at a premium and parking space is somewhere between minimal and non-existent.
The styling is a mixture of genres being compact and part coupé and part SUV and is designed to make urban travel easy and pleasurable even in the busiest or most confined urban areas. It's small (just 3.67 meters long with short overhangs) but spacious with a high driving position.
The HR1's heads up display makes a lot of sense too, as does the “movement recognition” system, though let's reserve judgement on this until we've tried it tomorrow. The press info indicates the driver can scroll through functions and select available settings with hand movements, which seems appropriate for a continent where so many people converse with their hands already, and a sweep of the hand from left to right can transfer control of the intrument panel to the passenger, though the benefits of this function are not entirely obvious. Maybe they will be tomorrow.
Here's what the pres release says on this matter: “The technology controlled by this method includes the audio, satellite navigation and air conditioning systems. The driver can also select, at his discretion, the preferred type of information to be displayed in the instrument panel: rev counter, water and oil temperature during “dynamic driving”, or tourist information when “cruising”.”
The other very fashionable aspect of the car's information system is the tablet computer in the passeneger's glove box. Apple's iPad must surely be one of the most influential gadgets of all time – it has been out for a matter months and every computer manufacturer in existence has one, and now they're being built into cars. I don't have any info on the tablet just yet, and it's an incredibly daring move given that the products of most of the aforementioned tablet manufacturers are decidedly awful and even Apple's own groundbreaking iPad is already looking out of date. As for the functionality which enables data to be shared and exchanged between the tablet and driver’s display, I'll reserve judgement on that one too … I can't think of anything useful or even vaguely interetsing that could be achieved with this, but … let's see what they've got to show us tomorrow.
Inside, the HR1 can be reconfigured from a four-seater to a three-seater using “stowaway seat” system which yields a flat load area. The rear tailgate glass has a raised “double bubble” section which offers extra rear headroom to be optimised.
Peugeot’s HYbrid4 technology is used in the HR1 with a 1.2 litre, 110 bhp three cylinder, petrol engine driving the front wheels and 37 bhp electric motor driving the rear, so it can be driven in electric mode at urban speeds, or with both engines providing four-wheel drive and freeway power. The combined fuel consumption comes in at 81 mpg and CO2 emissions at just 80 g/km. Power runs through an electronically-controlled 6-speed manual gearbox and you can use it as a sequential manual with the F1-style control paddles on the steering wheel or slip it into automatic and not need to think as much.