PARIS - Citroen has decided to build the Pluriel, the versatile little supermini seen as a concept at last year's Frankfurt show.
The Pluriel could be described as three vehicles in one - sedan, convertible or pickup. It has a full-length folding fabric roof and collapsible rear seats.
Production is expected to start in 2002. It will be built in France at either Aulnay-sous-Bois or Poissy.
The Pluriel will be sold alongside the C3, the Saxo replacement seen as a concept at the Paris auto show in 1998. The C3 was given the production go-ahead last year. It will go on sale in 2001 or early 2002.
Together with the Peugeot Vingtcoeur coupe-cabrio - also known as the 20 - the Pluriel and the C3 will give PSA a strong new presence in the small-car segment.
Citroen insiders believe the C3 and Pluriel will help revive the brand's reputation for innovation and design. Some have called the Pluriel a new 2CV, referring to the legendary model launched in 1948.
But Jean-Christophe Bolle-Reddat, the PSA body architect responsible for building the Vingtcoeur, C3 and Pluriel concept cars, has rejected the 2CV link.
If the Pluriel has an ancestor it is the Citroen Mehari, said Bolle-Reddat. The Mehari was a 1970s plastic-paneled utility vehicle.
Nonetheless, the Pluriel takes notable design cues from the old 2CV. Stylized corrugations run the length of the vehicle on both sides, reflecting the primitive bodywork of early 2CVs.
For prototyping purposes the Pluriel used the Peugeot 206 cabrio platform and running gear. A dedicated platform has now been developed for the Pluriel, which will likely be shared with the C3.
The secret of the Pluriel's versatility is its fabric roof and two removable hooped roof arches. The roof can be folded away completely together with the rear screen. The roof arches can then be unclipped to produce a full four-seat convertible. Alternatively, the rear seats can be folded flat to create a pickup effect.
The design is simple, neat and sturdy, said Bolle-Reddat. PSA learned lessons from Vingtcoeur about designing a small convertible for greater rigidity and crash integrity. These were applied to Pluriel, Bolle-Reddat said.
'Where the design brief for Vingtcoeur was for a sporty car, the brief for Pluriel was to create a new generation of basic small car,' said Bolle-Reddat.
'The challenge was to offer customers a robust vehicle they could use everyday in town, but also take for a holiday in the sun.'