French automaker Citroen doesn’t have a very large presence in the U.S., but every now and then they come up with a car that demands attention. A few months back that car was the GTbyCitroen, a supercar that started life as a videogame racer and was eventually turned into a real car. And this time, it’s the REVOLTe concept, a compact hybrid that is anything but conventional.
The REVOLTe is a compact car designed for urban environments. While vehicles this small have been slow to catch on in the States, they are becoming increasingly popular in Europe and Asia, where a premium on space and sprawling, narrow-roaded cites make compacts highly desirable. The REVOLTe measures just a bit over twelve feet long, 5.6 feet wide, and 4.4 feet high, which is, as near as makes no difference, the same as the Mini Cooper.
How Citroen manages that limited space is one of the selling points of the car, though. The REVOLTe is actually a three-seater, a rarity for cars, and uses an offset front seat and a rear “lounge” which is accessed through the rear-hinged “suicide” doors. Instead of designing a cabin that fits the traditional definition of a car, Citroen looked at the REVOLTe’s interior as an engineering and design challenge to create a comfortable environment with little space. In fact, that rear “lounge” seat is more reminiscent of the sofa in your living room than a traditional bench seat, and a little sliding of different components in the interior creates a mounting point for a rear-facing child’s seat. The very inclusion of that detail in the design highlights how different the thinking for this car is: cool concepts never talk about kids (unless it’s a DVD system to keep them quiet on long trips).
The styling, as you can see from the pictures, is a bit out there, with a few strong features that wouldn’t normally be seen anywhere near a compact car. In the press release detailing the REVOLTe, Citroen made it clear that this car would incorporate both “chic” and “cheek.” That’s right: the French are purposely not taking themselves seriously for once, which alone makes this car worthy of news headlines (apologies to the French readers, but Citroen’s press release was so flowery and self-praising that a little jabbing is justified).
Perhaps the most important part of the REVOLTe actually received the least attention from Citroen: the powertrain. The car is supposed to be a hybrid, but the company apparently spent all their time on the exterior and interior design, and didn’t get around to figuring out the engine. The company’s official materials state that the REVOLTe is a hybrid car, but doesn’t provide any details other than that it would be a plug-in capable of driving on pure electric power, and that the internal combustion engine would be small (one imagines a 1.6-liter four-cylinder).
And that lack of detail is where the Citroen REVOLTe concept ultimately falls flat. The auto industry and drivers around the world are not failing to purchase hybrid or electric vehicle because they aren’t pretty enough or unique enough. The driving public is ignoring them because the technology hasn’t become price-competitive with gasoline and diesel internal combustion vehicles. The REVOLTe presents an intriguing design exercise, but it will remain just that until the technology underpinning that design is more widely adopted. In developing new hybrid and electric drivetrains, form will follow function, no matter how much the REVOLTe’s designers may hate that fact.