Citroen Numero 9 concept car to debut at 2012 Beijing Motor Show

Citroen Numero 9 front viewHoping to make a big splash in China, French automaker Citroen is heading to the 2012 Beijing Motor Show with a new concept car. That concept, the Numero 9, has a plug-in hybrid powertrain. However, the real story is the styling, which provides a glimpse at what future Citroens will look like.

Two design elements immediately stand out. The first is the marriage of a sports car-like windshield and roofline with a station wagon’s rear hatch. This body style, called a shooting brake, makes the Numero 9 look a bit like a Ferrari FF. The Citroen does have a shorter hood than the Ferrari, probably because, like all French cars, it is front-wheel drive.

Second, the Numero 9 sits very low to the ground. It’s only 50.0 inches tall, but it is also 194.1 inches long. That means the car stands about as high as a Mazda Miata, but is as long as a midsize sedan. That’s the perfect combination of proportions for a car; long and low is always better than short and tall.

The design has some other nifty features, including LED headlights and taillights and A-pillars designed to reduce aerodynamic drag. It also has a glass roof that terminates in a (very appropriate) C-shaped rear spoiler.

As is fashionable these days, the Numero 9 has a plug-in hybrid powertrain, with batteries that can be charged by an internal combustion engine or through an outlet. Fossil fuel power comes from a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four, although Citroen says the Numero 9 could also be sold with a diesel. The four-banger’s 225 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque power the front wheels, while a 70 hp electric motor powers the rear wheels.

Strangely, in normal driving, the Numero 9 will switch its driven axles depending on which power source it is using; front-drive for the gasoline engine, and rear-drive for the electric motor. In “boost” mode, the two work together to produce 295 hp with all-wheel drive. According to Citroen, that should accelerate the Numero 9 from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, and to a top speed of 152 mph.Citroen Numero 9 rear view

The Numero 9’s batteries are lithium ion; Citroen claims the car can run for 31 miles on pure electricity. It should also get the equivalent of 138 mpg.

The Numero 9 is not just another Citroen, and not just because of its green powertrain. This concept wears the DS badge on its rear hatch. The DS line of cars are regular Citroens with more evocative styling. Citroen has always had a reputation for interesting engineering (like the hydraulic self-leveling suspension on this car and the company’s big sedans), but its recent designs have been a bit boring.

The DS cars, all small and medium-sized hatchbacks, have remedied that problem, giving Citroen a distinctive, contemporary style. The company is planning to give the DS treatment to larger vehicles, including sedans and an SUV. Citoren stopped selling cars in the U.S. in 1974, but if its future models look like this, it might be time for a triumphant return.