When I managed, a couple of weeks ago, to clap eyes on the new SR1 concept car in the inner sanctum of Peugeot’s design centre just outside Paris, it wasn’t so much the car’s Aston-like profile that delivered the shock. It was the scale of the company’s ambition for its future designs.
Here was a car, unrecognisable as a Peugeot except in the broadest terms, which both of the company’s design bosses - PSA group chief Jean-Pierre Ploue and newly appointed Peugeot design head Gilles Vidal - reckoned was a reliable guide to the design features and philosophy we’ll see applied to much more prosaic Peugeot models of the future. Starting, evidently, with the 207 replacement (probably to be called 208, though it’s not absolutely certain) we’ll see in 2011.
Gone is the much-criticised wide-mouth frog look, along with the saggy backside that always reminded me of a fat person overhanging a piano stool. Instead, we’re to get a smaller, precisely designed grille countersunk into the car’s frontal shape, along with defined, simple surfaces designed to make the car look lighter and more “technical”.
Ploue and Vidal regard the 205GTi and 407 Coupe - both much admired where designers of all persuasions gather - as recent Peugeots whose balance and grace they want to emulate.
Interestingly, Pininfarina has important input into both of them, though that won’t be the case in future, Ploue suggests. The Italian design house is struggling, whereas Peugeot design is more focused than it has been for decades.
I think we’re in for an exciting time. The top men at Peugeot, not just managers but designers too, are making all the right noises. It’s a rare event, not being able to predict in your mind’s eye the major styling features of car as close to the mainstream as the 207 replacement.
According to Jean-Pierre Ploue there will be more concept cars to illustrate the new direction between here and Geneva/Frankfurt 2011, when the new production car appears, and I suspect their launches will be moments to savour.