When French automotive powerhouse Peugeot set out to redesign the MPV, it obviously took a look at the vehicle's target market and decided on making the boxy, aerodynamically-dysfunctional, aesthetically-unappealing rugrat-carrier a lot more desirable to the genre's traditional driver - the young mum.
The resultant HX1 concept people-carrier seats six with a sleek (Cd 0.28), low (1.373 m), wide (1.99 m) and long (4.954 m) wagon and aerodynamics that adapt to the speed of the vehicle. It also teamed up with luxury shoe designer Pierre Hardy to create a concept shoe which transforms from a slipper suitable for driving, to a gorgeous high-heeled shoe suitable for more glamorous occasion. Vive La France!
The French take on the soccer-mum-wagon is something that we expect the marketplace will find very desirable. The needs of women have somehow long been overlooked in the male dominated automotive industry where even the female automotive journalists tend to have an extra dose of testosterone and a desire to laud the same performance cars their male counterparts like. If the HX1 is as successful as we think it will be, appealing to women, who have a huge slab of buying influence, may soon amount to more than painting a car pink as it's obvious that gaping opportunities still exist in the marketplace.
In light of the Peugeot HX1, and its obvious appeal to the market, there will no doubt be a few other automotive companies asking themselves why previously stylish young women with aesthetic appreciation AND children have been forced to drive functional but boxy mini-buses instead of transport which appeals to the person who will choose and drive the vehicle. In many ways, the existing offerings in the MPV range are as much "work vehicles for mothers" as utilities and pick ups are for the tradesman.
So let's address the practicality of the vehicle first up.
The HX1 essentially has a HYbrid4 hybrid diesel-electric power train borrowed directly from the Peugeot top-of-the-range 508 GT, with a few intelligent additions. While many other European manufacturers have been busy promoting diesel as an alternative to petrol-electric, Peugeot went one better and developed diesel-electric powertrains.
The internal combustion engine is a 2.2 liter HDi diesel producing 150 kW (204 bhp), driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. There's also a 70 kW (95 bhp) electric motor integrated into the rear axle and an accompanying lithium-ion battery pack which gives the HX1 a healthy total power output of 220 kW (299 bhp), and plenty of low and mid-range torque. The concept car integrates HYbrid4 technology, an innovative modular architecture that figures in the Peugeot range on the 3008 HYbrid4, the first diesel hybrid in the world; technology which will also be present on the 508 RXH.
The principle behind HYbrid4 is clever yet simple: with an internal combustion diesel engine at the front (powering the front wheels) and an electric motor to the rear (powering the rear wheels), this technology enables all four wheels to be driven when the engine and motor work together, for increased safety and traction in extreme conditions. It also enables the vehicle to be driven at low speeds powered just by the electric motor in "Zero Emissions Vehicle" mode.
The HX1 is different from the 508GT in that it is also equipped with plug-in functionality, meaning those aforementioned lithium-ion batteries can be recharged by plugging in to any household 240 volt power point. By topping up the batteries, the HX1 has a longer electric-only driving range of 30 km (18.6 miles). Taking the kids to school or soccer practice or the dozens of other bus-driver chores a mother of school-age children routinely faces can hence be largely done with zero emissions and close-to-zero running costs. Even in hybrid mode, the HX1 delivers (combined) fuel consumption of just 3.2 liter/100 km with CO2 emissions of 83 g/km - this will appeal to mums almost as much as the styling.
So too will the four large reverse-opening half-scissor doors of the HX1's cavernous yet elegant passenger compartment. The emphasis of the interior is plenty of space for the two front and two rear occupants. Two "pull-out seats" seats are integrated behind the front seats, and these can be configured in a center row similar to those of the HR1 concept car which was one of the stars of the Paris Motor Show last September.
As can be expected of a car that breaks the mold, the dashboard is a highly futuristic design with digital displays and touchscreens, and many of the interior fittings are real departures from the norm. The floor and some fittings are in natural oak with inlaid fiber optics, brushed metal and leather, and there are also LED spotlights. If, or perhaps that should be when the car reaches production, I'd suggest that many of the interior fittings might need to be a little more childproof, but for now the non-conventional materials and folded and stitched leather seats add to the elegance of the vehicle as Peugeot attempts to gain the attention of the female audience.
The steering column/wheel can be adjusted electrically, as can the seats, and the steering wheel movement "loads up" automatically when cruise-control is selected for enhanced driving stability.
Peugeot's press statement emphasized that it has designed the instrument panel to create the experience of having complete control over the vehicle and the information displayed on the central multifunctional screen can be chosen to suit the circumstance, while there's also a heads-up display which presents all of the information to the driver via a reflection on the windscreen so they don't need to take their eyes off the road ahead.
The two main rear seats point to the HX1 as being more than a simple yummy mummy wagon though. The twin rear seats are both sculpted and reclinable, with a set of passenger controls in the central armrest.
Remarkably, and this is another innovation long overdue in a car designed to gobble miles effortlessly, the center console is surfaced in white, hand-milled Carrare marble and incorporates a minibar and a coffee machine. Why has it taken so long to fit a coffee machine to a motor vehicle. Long road trips for me have always involved more coffee pit stops than gas stops, and one wonders if the extended range of the diesel-sipping HX1 gave rise to the idea - multiple pit stops are the bane of good point-to-point times.
Last but by no means least in a concept which indicates that Peugeot's designers are at the cutting edge of vehicle design is the aerodynamic innovation of the HX1.
At standstill and up to 100 km/h (62 mph), the seven vanes in each of the HX1's wheel rim spike are reminiscent of a turbine. At speed though, they open to create a flat disc surface which improves aerodynamic efficiency. Simultaneously, the spoiler and two side skirts located at the top of the tailgate deploy to further improve how the HX1 leaves the air behind it.
I always fancied myself as a bookmaker, capable of framing markets to reflect the probability of events occurring. I'd have the HX1 as odds-on to see production. When the world's mothers see this car, my money is on them letting Peugeot know that they want it.
Will the yummy mummy shoes also see production? Maybe. Women prefer high heels and I have no idea how they walk in them, let alone drive in them. It hence makes sense that elegant shoes that are comfortable and safe to drive in will have a market.
Perhaps we should throw the floor open to Gizmag's 20% of women readers for comment.