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Citroen’s back catalogue is riddled with bold, occasionally bemusing concepts, and this Aircross seems destined to join them. And much like the C4 Cactus it’s clearly riffing off, the French maker’s new SUV preview has a design that will split opinions right down the middle.

Roughly the size of a BMW X3 or Land Rover Discovery Sport, Citroen describes it as ‘intense and optimistic’. We say the twin grilles and squinting headlights give it an aggression not often seen on the firm’s cars, though there are plenty of stylish touches to ensure its boxy shape isn’t overly imposing. Spot the Mini-esque floating roof, silver-trimmed rear windows and the cute little wing mirror design.

The Cactus’s ‘Airbump’ bubble-wrap technology is deployed, while new ‘Alloy Bumps’ are fitted down low to soak up the heave-ho of the off-roading that next to no SUV owners actually do. Expect a simpler version to be optional on Citroen’s inevitable production soft-roader, though we don’t expect the bespoke knobbly tyres to enjoy the same fate.

It’s inside that things get really quirky, though. Designed to boost both physical and mental well-being (Citroen’s words), the Aircross is not short of character.

The physical side is dealt with via ‘king-size’ seats, which wouldn’t look out of place on board a spacecraft. They’re bold enough, too, with a lurid white and orange colour scheme. Citroen says they pick up on the Cactus’s sofa spirit, which perhaps explains the chintzy weaved colours on the back of the wraparound headrests.

Contributing to your mental wellness, too, are huge panoramic HD screens, beaming out many bright, whimsical colours. Most intriguing, though, is something Citroen ominously calls ‘audio spatialisation’.

See, each of the four seats comes equipped with microphones and speakers, which, via much technological complication, create ‘sound bubbles’ that mean you can chat individually with select passengers, or choose to curl up and ignore them all.

In the company’s words, “each passenger can choose who they want to speak to while respecting the relaxation of their fellow travellers, making the journey a time for calm or communication.” We could make many jokes about shutting up nagging other-halves, but shan’t…

Also providing an unusual take on ‘interaction’ are a handful of exterior cameras, which can be controlled via the interior’s screens to take pictures of the journey, primed and ready for some social media hash tagging and orangey filters.

Of almost secondary interest to all of this is the old-fashioned art of driving. A four-wheel-drive hybrid system provides propulsion, a 218bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo twinned with a 95bhp electric motor. The latter operates the rear axle, and can do so solely for a 31-mile electric-only range.

The result is a bunch of stats that will be wonderfully improbable in the real world: 166mpg, 39g/km of CO2, yet 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds.

But then with its lavish interior and 22in alloy wheels, the Aircross concept isn’t quite the car we’ll see when Citroen does bring a proper SUV into production. For boldness’s sake, we’re hoping much of the styling remains intact, though. What do you reckon?

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