Citroen has found its feet again in recent years, returning to its roots with comfy, quirky cars for people who think a bit differently. Along with the funky C4 Cactus, the C3 hatch runs with a unique look, and we're not even going to start talking about the brand's range of minivans. If the C-Aircross Concept is anything to go by, that range will soon be growing to include a (handsome) compact four-wheel drive.
There are a lot of words you could use to describe the current Citroen design language (depending on who you are, they'll range from interesting to ugly), but the focus on circular detailing and contrast colors means those words certainly don't include tough. The C-Aircross aims to change that, with its pumped-up ride height and plastic cladding. Although it's only 4.15 meters (13.6 ft) long, 1.74 meters (5.7 ft) wide and 1.63 meters (5.3 ft) tall, the designers have done a good job of making the car look big and imposing, while the 18-inch wheels add a touch of flair.
As well as being a bit more butch than your average compact four-wheel drive, the concept is also a bit smarter. Citroen has a long history of experimenting with aero in its concepts and the C-Aircross is no different, with a set of clever "air breather" vents built into the front flanks helping reduce drag in tandem with the rear diffuser.
Like any good Citroen, the C-Aircross Concept also puts a real focus on comfort, with seats modelled on a comfortable, springy sofa. Finished in quilted leather, they look like the automotive equivalent of a hug from grandma – unlike the medieval torture devices fitted to most concept cars. Also unique among concept cars is the focus on making the cabin light and airy, with tall side windows and a full-length panoramic glazed roof. According to the design team, this makes the cabin feel more spacious and improves the wellbeing of everyone inside.
There's more to the cabin than comfortable seats and big windows. A real focus has been placed on laying out information logically, with a heads-up display and "high-tech rear vision" system. Rather than running with conventional mirrors, the images from cameras mounted on the flanks are transposed onto the windscreen-mounted rear-view mirror.
Along with the smart heads-up display, there's a new 12-inch touchscreen in the center console. It's tasked with managing infotainment and climate control, and can be split into three separate sections so the passenger and backseat drivers can enjoy a movie, while the driver still has access to navigation and other key information. The windscreen-mounted camera from the C3 carries over, allowing drivers to record their exploits on the move or, if the car is hit while parked, recording the accident for insurance.
As is often the case with concept cars, no details have been provided about what's hiding under the hood of the C-Aircross. When the production version lands, you can expect it to run with a range of turbocharged three- and four-cylinder engines, but for now Citroen is only willing to say the car will be fitted with all-wheel drive.
The C-Aircross Concept will be on show at the Geneva Motor Show, which kicks off on March 7.
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