Revisiting the Citroen Tubik Concept (2011)

The Citroen Tubik was a concept car in pure form. Sure, it wasn’t like the concepts of the 50s and 60s when GM was tooling around in a circus procession known as the Motorama, travelling from city to city peddling unattainable dreams. But those ‘dream machines’ reflected the optimism of the US at the time, post war sales were booming and everyone was looking out at the future through rose-tinted spectacles.

Unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, the Tubik was a gaze into the more immediate future, a look at how we might someday travel through autonomous vehicles and the technology that we’d have in place to take us along this journey.

The large hybrid-powered MPV concept drew heavily on the French automaker’s previous Tub van from the late 1930s as well as the 1948 Type H van, which was built up through to the 1980s. Designed by Lars Taubert, the Tubik’s front and rear ends — finished in white and corrugated — contrasted with the metallic skin of the main body. But what was most striking about the concept were its bolt upright proportions. Almost as tall as it was wide, it stood 2005mm high and 2080mm wide with an overall length of 4800mm.

While the exterior surface language of the MPV was decidedly more contemporary than the H van (which itself was made from corrugated steel — a material seen as cutting edge when it was first conceived) you couldn’t mistake the family resemblance in its front face and the minimalistic treatment of its (albeit more curvaceous) bodysides. Like the H Van, whose corrugated bodywork added strength while being low in weight, the concept featured a metallic central cocoon draped over the body like a protective cloak. This structure also doubled as massive gullwing doors, which opened in two parts (the lower section in the rocker folded out) to facilitate ease of access into the cabin.

Intended as both a commercial van and a people carrier, the reconfigurable interior was covered in purple silk, felt and leather, and the three rows of lounge style seating could be rearranged to suit individual needs. It could accommodate up to nine passengers. This was seen to reflect the needs of the contemporary family, which, for the majority of families out there, no longer constitutes two adults and 2.5 kids. Modern families can be ruptured, with a divorced father’s two children from a previous marriage joining together with another three from a new spouse.

All of these kids will want to do something while they’re in the vehicle, regardless of whether they’re on their way to school, travelling away on vacation or down to the corner store. As such the concept catered by offering options for connectivity on board along with a curved screen for rear occupants. The driver’s area was a completely separate space, encased in what Citroen called a ‘Cyclotron structure’, the brainchild of interior design lead Pascal Grappey.

Swathed in brown leather and chrome finishes, the contrasting materials and colorways for the driver’s area provided a clear separation for the captain and the lounge are at the rear. As with the exterior, the obvious references to Citroen’s history (such as the DS-inspired steering wheel, for example) were made modern, and the concept explored the option for connectivity in the driver’s area as well. A cradle for the driver’s iPhone took pride of place, protruding from the center stack.

Though it’s been nearly four years since we’ve seen or heard anything about the Tubik concept, what it did was show how the modern person (and their children) could someday travel around the globe. It offered a potential vehicle that was a stark contrast to what many envision the future vehicle to be. It wasn’t compact, it could seat more than two persons and it wasn’t overly aerodynamic. It showed the possibilities for future transport in a world where we will still require inherent functionality and practicality. It was a modern day concept car.

Citroën Tubik design team:
Exterior Designer – Lars Taubert
Lead Interior Designer – Pascal Grappey
Interior Designer – Guillaume LeMaître
Head of Advanced Design – Carlo Bonzanigo


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