A plug-in hybrid, the Exalt uses the same 1.6-litre THP engine as the RCZ R, but the four-cylinder petrol engine’s 266bhp is supplemented by a 67bhp electric motor mounted on the multi-link rear axle. Peugeot's Hybrid4 system automatically selects which driving mode to use, choosing from pure electric, petrol only or petrol-electric hybrid options.
It is also built on a version of the EMP2 platform that underpins the next generation of PSA vehicles, including the 2013 Car of the Year winner, the Peugeot 308. According to Peugeot, the Exalt features "an intense driving experience dedicated to enjoyment"
Inside, a leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel features alongside a digital instrument cluster and two folding touch screens on the large centre console. The upper screen controls the main infotainment functions, while the lower screen offers climate control as well as access to Peugeot's Pure Blue air-filtration system.
Piano-key inspired switchgear also features, arranged both to the left and right of the steering wheel. Passengers are seated in special bucket seats made from leather and wool-based fabric, while black ebony wood trim with a special design motif can also be seen.
Helping to mark the rebirth of Peugeot, it's no coincidence the French car maker has chosen to unveil the Exalt in Beijing. Asian buyers are traditionally more receptive to new ideas, and China's second largest manufacturer, Dongfeng, recently took a stake in PSA.
It's believed that Peugeot is planning something of an upmarket relaunch in the Chinese market, carving out new opportunities in the same vein as Citroën's DS line, which is seen as a separate brand in China.
Speaking to Autocar, Sophie Gazeu – colour and materials stylist for the concept – said the Exalt had taken 18 months to create, far longer than a traditional concept: "There is more than one way to do luxury. A top-end leather handbag that has aged is more highly prized than one that has come straight out of the shop. Wooden furniture that has marked through use is said to have character.
"We hear a lot about authenticity, but what is authentic about a piece of wood that has 1000 layers of lacquer on it, or real leather that is treated so much that it looks like plastic, no matter for how many years you use it?"
Style director Gilles Vidal said: "The Onyx supercar concept was our guiding force.
“That set the design philosophy, and especially the principle of having an emotional relationship with a car that sets it apart, led by the use of materials. At this end of the market, you are not buying the car because you have to. You are buying it because you want to. The Exalt is very distinguishable as a modern Peugeot."
Read more Beijing motor show news.
Additional reporting by Jim Holder