Auto blogThu, 30 Oct 2014
Crossovers are the name of the game at the Sao Paulo Motor Show this year, with numerous European and Japanese automakers using the occasion of Latin America's largest auto show to showcase new high-riding concepts. This latest example comes from Citroën.
Called the Aircross Lunar, the concept is based on the C3 Picasso minivan but gives it a more rough-and-tumble appearance - similar to the larger C4 Aircross but even more rugged, as if prepared to drive over the surface of the moon. Citroën isn't saying much about the concept, but as you can see, it is fitted with knobby BF Goodrich tires, beefed-up bumpers, contrasting wheel arches, side sills inspired by the C4 Cactus, a hinged and oddly square spare tire carrier and a roof rack with dual containers anchored to the front wheel arches. (Can't count on gravity to keep them locked down on the moon, now can you?)
Brazil represents half of all Citroëns sold in Latin America and the C3 - manufactured locally in Porto Real - is its top seller, with 320,000 units sold since the introduction of the first-generation model in 2003.
When you think of hot hatches, one French automaker comes to mind... but it's not Citroën. Maybe it should be, though, because some of the industry's best hot hatches are honed on the rally stage, and nobody has dominated the modern World Rally Championship like Citroën has. With the legendary Sébastien Loeb behind the wheel, Citroën won nine Drivers' and eight Constructors' titles between 2003 and 2012. And the last two were scored in the DS3 WRC. The 2014 Citroën DS3 Cabrio Racing you see here is the road-going version of that dominant rally machine.
Citroën first launched the DS3 Racing back in 2010 with a limited run of 1,000 examples, all clad in dark gray with (optional) bright-orange accents. Production was further extended to a total of 2,400 units, but after those all sold out, the French automaker followed up in 2013 with 200 additional examples, this time with an opening roof panel, a matte anthracite finish and metallic red trim. Since Citroën does not compete in the North American market, we recently took the opportunity to drive it at Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK to see what all the fuss is about.
It may not be everybody's prickly cup of tea, but Citroën has reportedly found enough buyers for its kinda strange-looking C4 Cactus that it has found it necessary to boost production at its assembly plant in Madrid, adding shifts on Saturday to help meet demand. With more markets, including Australia, slated to get the C4 Cactus soon, Spanish newspaper La Tribuna de Automocion reported (via Australia's Go Auto) that facility director Jose Carlo Robredo expects production to increase by 20 percent.
The C4 Cactus competes against compact crossover-like vehicles that include the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. With a relatively low starting price, offbeat styling and extreme efficiency - 141 miles per gallon on the European cycle, or two liters per 100 kilometers - it's a unique package that is apparently attracting plenty of attention from shoppers in Europe.
Want to get your hands on a new French car? If you live in the United States, you're pretty much out of luck. Mainstream French automakers like Renault, Peugeot and Citroën don't compete in the US marketplace. However, American buyers may get some French flavor in a few years' time in the form of DS.
For those unfamiliar, DS is a brand under the umbrella of Peugeot SA. Until recently it existed as a sub-brand of the Citroën division, but is now being spun off into its own unit, with its own products and aspirations - and those include the US marketplace. This according to Yves Bonnefont, the newly named CEO of the DS brand and top lieutenant of PSA chief Carlos Tavares. "We want to make DS a global premium brand," Bonnefont revealed to Automotive News Europe at the Paris Motor Show where it unveiled the concept pictured above. "And you cannot be global without the US." It would likely take until after 2020 to enact the plan, however, closing out three decades since Peugeot withdrew from the US market in 1991.
PSA Peugeot Citroën ranks among the few largest automakers in Europe, the top ten largest in the world, and certainly one of the largest that does not participate in the North American market. The company recently underwent a shift in ownership and management, bringing the French government and Chinese automaker Dongfeng on board and naming a new slate of top executives. Among the many steps the new ownership and management have taken is to separate the DS line from the Citroën brand.
At its flagship showroom on the swank Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Citroën revealed the new C3-XR. The compact crossover joins the C3 range alongside the five-door hatch and C3 Picasso minivan, but is targeted specifically at the Chinese market.
The C3-XR closely follows the lead set by the C-XR concept presented in Beijing earlier this year, with a higher riding stance than the conventional C3 and a more robust design. Details are few and far between, but the French automaker confirms that it will be launched with a gasoline-burning 1.6-liter turbo four with 160 horsepower and stop/start system mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The new model launches at the end of the year in China, a market which accounts for a quarter of all the brand's sales and where it has already introduced such dedicated models as the C-Elysée and C4 L. The launch today in Paris coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China.
The French auto brands certainly haven't been afraid to display a plethora of concepts at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. We've seen everything from the imagined future of CUVs to a very weird looking hatchback. Citroën is adding one more to the tally with its C1 Urban Ride that tries to make a European city car look a bit more rugged, highlighting the model's customization potential in the process.
Whether the concept succeeds at tough-looking goal is up for debate, but the Urban Ride has its suspension lifted a whole 0.6 inches, with a 0.4-inch wider track. To show off its aspirations, the front bumper, wheel arches and side sills all get some black cladding for claimed protection, and there's a set of black wheels, too. The rest of the concept gets some eye-popping yellow paint.
There are actually two versions of the Urban Ride on display - the 5-door hardtop and the Airscape (pictured above) with a retracting roof. Citroën is taking votes at the show to see which one people like more. Scroll down to read more about this rugged little hatch concept.
Full disclosure: I love the Citroën C4 Cactus. Really, I just love French automakers. Kudos to them for flexing their design muscles, creating products that compete in the mass market while not looking like anything else on the road. This C4 Cactus, for example - it's a small hatchback that's about the same size as a Ford Focus, designed to take on small crossovers like the (also weird) Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. But it looks radical, what with its funky Airbump door trim (think of it as aerodynamic, protective Braille), extensive and imaginative color palette, and decidedly weird styling. It's just plain cool.
This specific C4 Cactus, however, takes things a step further with a massive focus on emissions and fuel economy. Much like the Peugeot 208 with which it shares a powertrain, the Cactus 2L Airflow uses PSA Peugeot Citroën's Hybrid Air powertrain, comprised of a three-cylinder PureTech gasoline engine and a compressed air storage unit. There are three different operating modes for the Hybrid Air system, including "air power," where the compressed air motor runs things, "petrol power," which is pretty self-explanatory, and "combined power," where the combustion engine works with the compressed air system to move things along.
The end result? A five-door hatch that weighs just 2,100 pounds (you know, lighter than a Mazda Miata) and is capable of getting 141 miles per gallon on the European cycle, or two liters per 100 kilometers (that's why it's got "2L" in its name). And it's all wrapped in colorful, textured, uniquely French package. Sign me up.
Meet the new Divine DS Concept, the future of Citroën's new DS sub-brand and one of the bigger debuts at this 2014 Paris Motor Show. Why, you ask? Well, the current crop of DS cars, like the DS3 and DS4, are basically just slightly restyled versions of the standard Citroën C3 and C4. Park them next to their more mundane counterparts, and the relationship is plain as day.
The introduction of the Divine DS, though, is a preview of what Citroën is going to do to differentiate the premium DS line from its parent's mainstream, twin-chevron-adorned cars and crossovers.
That means a new, expressive exterior design, using what designers call the "DS wings," or the chrome bits below the headlights and above the lower intakes. While Citroën first introduced this on the DS5-based 5LS, the Divine DS' interpretation is more upright, giving the fascia a "heightened sense of prestige." Okay.
With the alternating main European auto show landing in Paris this year, French automakers won't miss the opportunity to unveil lots of new metal on their home turf, and that includes Citroën. So far, we know that the Chevron marque is rolling in to Versailles this year with the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L, a pair of specials done with fashion designer Ines de la Fressange, and the Divine DS concept from its newly emancipated luxury division. But that's not all - it's also lined up the little concept you see here.
The C1 Urban Ride concept is based on its new C1 hatchback, the compact city car that's now in its second generation - but with a more rugged approach. It rides on a suspension that's jacked up by 0.6 inches and the track has been increased by 0.4 inches. To drive home that extra ruggedness, the Urban Ride's appearance has been augmented with reinforced bumpers and wheel arches - all to show the customization potential of the city car in both fixed-roof/five-door and fabric-roofed Airscape bodystyles.
I'm the president of Autoblog's chapter of the Citroën C4 Cactus Appreciation Club. Full Disclosure: I'm also probably its only member. Why am I fan, you ask? Because the C4 and its ding-resistant Airbumps offer the versatility of a five-door Ford Focus, but it's 350 pounds lighter than today's Mazda MX-5 Miata, tipping the scales at just over 2,100 pounds. And when equipped with a diesel, it returns 91.1 miles per gallon (European), all while looking like the epitome of French quirkiness and style. I can't think of anything not to like about it, aside from the fact that I haven't actually driven it (Citroën, call me, we can change this).
For the 2014 Paris Motor Show, Citroen is bringing a new concept version of the Cactus. Unlike the Adventure Concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the Airflow 2L Concept is focused on increasing the Cactus' already impressive fuel economy. Through a fanatical observance of aerodynamics and the shedding of a further 220 pounds of weight, the Airflow 2L Concept returns over 141 miles per gallon (in other words, it consumes just two liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, hence the "2L" in the name).
Aerodynamic drag has been reduced by 20 percent thanks to three adjustable intakes in the front fascia, which can open and close automatically based on driving conditions. Side deflectors divert air around the body while active shutters on the 19-inch wheels further cut down on drag even further. The old concept car trope of video cameras in place of traditional wing mirrors is present, ostensibly to further reduce drag, while Citroën has added an air curtain system on the front bumper to manipulate air around the wheels.