Dream Garage #11 – Citroën C-Airplay

Yes, yes, I know. Yet another Citroën. But I simply cannot pass this one up, as it is one of those cars I’d gladly trade for nearly any other one of the members of my dream garage.

The Citroen C-Airplay was introduced in December 2005 at the Bologna Motor Show. Maybe it was the venue, maybe it was too close in time to the C-SportLounge or C-Buggy, I don’t know, but the general reception seems to have been lukewarm at best, because Citroen decided not to pursue the model, either with a production version or even the styling cues. From what I personally recall, the most off-putting feature for most people were the little tinted windows mounted low down in the doors. I suppose people were concerned strangers would be able to perceive defects in their legs in traffic jams or something.

It’s just such a pity and waste that this gorgeous, gorgeous car was left to wallow in the mire of Forgotten Concept-Car Oblivion. That lovely shape and the charming tininess would have made for a cracking city car. I look at it and reminded of the Fiat Nuova 500, which the C-Airplay preceded by more than a year, and judging from the success of the Italian car, Citroen probably had a winner on their hands and didn’t realise it.

And look at it! How much closer could this have been to production version? Yes, the interior is far too outlandish for the mass market, but the outside was bang on. The handsome headlight and the grill arrangement underneath them, the central exhaust pipe, the concavities in the doors, the little wheels a the corners… it’s just all so wonderfully balanced and dynamic-looking.

I also loved that incredibly pretty targa roof, which would’ve been a certain success amongst the target clientèle (which would be those who went for the Fiat 500 cabrio), though a more consensual interior along with more standardised rear seats would’ve been necessary. The rear seats would probably only allow legless dwarves to occupy them in a minimally comfortable manner, but if the Fiat 500 and the Peugeot RCZ get away with it, then so could the C-Airplay.

The absolutely insane interior that could only exist in a concept car was a bit weird. The front seats were joined up with no central column down the middle, like on most cheaper cars up to until about twenty years ago, and the seatbelts were attached to the car in the middle (as you can see in the picture). The interior was all covered in rubbery plastic or something, which the usual PR car-designer prattle said it was to “enhance sensory perception” or some bollocks like that. The steering wheel layout was very cool, very much in line with the fixed central hub introduced with the Citroen C4. I don’t know about the display though, with only the rev-counter and speedometer plainly visible for the driver to see. The end result is a Spartan as opposed to minimalist (e.g., BMW interiors are truly austere and purely functional, with the feeling that joy and enthusiasm weren’t on the designer’s mind – thus Spartan; a Volvo on the other hand, has a very simple interior, with no fussy mannerisms, but very nicely balanced, giving a sense of comfort and welcoming – that’s minimalist). Though the colour and the concept are truly meant to make the innards of the C-Airplay come across and young, fun and funky, I think it must’ve seemed featureless and bare to the casual beholder, and that’s probably another reason why it didn’t receive an enthusiastic reaction on being presented.

And I’m saddened that I’m writing this entry in this way, since it sounds like I’m writing an obituary. It’s been more than five years since this car was shown, and judging by the current crop of Citroen’s and their styling, and the general direction the company is heading in, this concept’s future development is probably definitely very dead. Unless of course, some absolutely whacky executive at the Marque comes along and decides to resurrect the project. This probably isn’t that whacky an idea though, since there is a market for funky little city cars, and the styling still looks great today. Smacks me more as wishful thinking on my part, though.

Ah well. Maybe one day I’ll be filthily-rich enough to go up to some high-standing figure at Citroen and commission a replica of one or buy the concept version. I definitely would do that. I just wonder if such a thing is possible.


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