First drive: Citroen 19_19 concept review

The 19_19’s black sill is high enough that you almost step up into the car, before sinking into the bucket-like cluster of cushions that is the lower portion of the driver’s seat. Those cushions look supremely comfortable, but, because this is the stylish but undeveloped chair of a concept, they’re a little lumpier than you might expect. Never mind – there’s a rectangular steering wheel to divert your interest, its trad-Citroen single spoke hosting a not-very-readable sequence of colour displays. 

Beyond it you stare through a shallow windscreen bounded by fat, curving pillars. This vista combines with the equally shallow glazing of the doors to recall the view out from a fat-pillared saloon from the 1940s, which isn’t inappropriate given the 19_19’s mudguards. In every other way, though, this Citroen bounds effortlessly into the future.

The slender black Chevron-sculpted black dashboard is bereft of instruments and buttons, instead a head-up display provides vital information. This clean, uncluttered look signposts Citroen’s quest to simplify car interiors, with the aim of creating a more restful environment decluttered of knobs, switches and controls. Mounted within the dashboard is a large black cylinder that is your so-called personal assistant; it rises periscope-style as the steering wheel and pedals retract when it’s called upon to do the driving. 

There’ll be no AI driving in this prototype: right now that future is something to be imagined. The 19_19 does drive, though, and electrically too. The main noises of progress are the low hum of the motor and the squeal of the giant Goodyear tyres on the painted hangar floor, the 19_19 confined to the inside because its show-car bodywork doesn’t like the English summer sun. You soon discover that a resolutely rectangular steering wheel is not the ideal piece of direction-changing kit, but hey, this is fantasy and it looks good.

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Rather more ergonomically effective are the subtle start button in the marble-look centre console (it’s actually a composite) and the black ring that surrounds it, half of which juts beyond the brick-like console itself. That’s your gear selector, and it’s among the more pleasingly weird of its type.

Citroen design chief Pierre Leclerq says that ‘a suspended passenger cell was the first idea for this car, a cloud upon wheels,’ and, while it’s hard to imagine that when trundling at 15mph in hangar, its sumptuous seating, highly advanced suspension (anti-roll systems, road-reading via tyre sensors and Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic cushions aid the suspending) and the lounge-like airiness of its cabin make wandering like a cloud easier to picture. It’s certainly easy to see how you’d doze off in that airline-style recliner of a front passenger seat, the 19_19’s personal assistant doubtless waking you on arrival with some soft-spoken words.



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