PARIS - PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Renault will emphasize fun and innovation on the concept cars each will unveil at the Geneva auto show next month.
Renault will show an on-road/off-road concept car powered by the first direct-injection gasoline engine designed by a European carmaker.
Peugeot will introduce a coupe/convertible prototype based on its future 207 supermini. The Peugeot is expected to be produced, though the company says no decision has been made.
Renault's futuristic Zo concept car is a three-seat spider with no roof. It is reminiscent of the 1994 Argos spider concept car and also similar to the Renault Spider.
'It is an escapist recreational vehicle,' said Michel Jardin, Renault's chief designer for concept cars.
The driver is seated in the center. Passenger seats to the right and left of the driver are positioned slightly behind.
The Zo has an aluminum structure with carbon fiber body panels. A key innovation is an electro-hydraulic system that lifts the body by 130mm for driving off-road.
The Zo's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is the first direct-injection gasoline engine shown by a European carmaker.
A Renault spokesman said the prototype engine, called F5R, is not ready for production. Installing it in the Zo is meant to show that Renault is investing in engine technology, said a company insider. It follows Peugeot's announced plans to launch common-rail diesel versions of the Citroen Xantia and Peugeot 406 later this year.
'The idea to use the F5R in the Zo came from the communications department,' said the insider.
The Zo does not have the look of a production car, though Renault is closely studying the leisure/off-road segment.
The Peugeot coupe/convertible is clearly a foretaste of the 207 supermini that will debut at the Paris auto show in October. The name is pronounced 'two-oh-heart' and is written '20' followed by the heart symbol.
The entire front section - headlamps, bumper, hood, and fenders - is from the 207. The heavily raked windshield and the trunk are specific to the concept car.
The car looks like a small Mercedes-Benz SLK. It uses a similar system to fold a rigid roof into the trunk. The trunk was jointly developed by PSA and Heuliez, the French coachbuilder. Heuliez is also a candidate to manufacture the car.
The Peugeot concept car is 3820mm long and rides on a 2440mm wheelbase. It has two rear seats, but is more a 2+2 than a full 4-seater.
The car is expected to go on sale in 1999, equipped with 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter gasoline engines. A Peugeot insider said it will be priced at around FF100,000 ($16,600).