Can Citroën finally succeed in betting on the essential car?

Good ideas are not reserved for anyone, but finding the right time to implement them is not given to everyone. The concept of the sleek and simple car incorporated in the recent Oli study is thus not new for Citroën. It goes back to the mid-2000s, when Chevrons were already thinking about reinventing the 2CV.

The idea comes to life for the first time at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show with the C-Cactus studio, a compact 4.20 m long, equipped with a diesel/electric hybrid engine, which strives to eliminate the superfluous to limit its price and do not consume too much. If the time is not yet for the mainstream hybrid – only Toyota ventured there at the time – the foundation for the future C4 Cactus was laid. In 2014, Citroën therefore presents this strange but intelligent raised compact as “the essential car” (sic). Sleek but well equipped, easy to drive but comfortable, this fun C4 demonstrates brilliantly that we can do things simply and well.. Perhaps too soon, as the success is not there and the Cactus will leave the catalog in 2019, an extremely short life cycle for a car.

Goodbye to Airbumps in the middle of the doors to protect the car from attacks from shopping carts. However, there are small guards embedded in the frames, C5 Aircross style.© Citroën

Degrowth no longer sounds the same

Three years later, the Oli concept, 100% electric and practicing minimalism, is not new. But after a pandemic, the industry has still coughed, and in the midst of an unprecedented energy crisis, the message of degrowth is louder.. The form changes for this 4.20 m long manifesto, but the substance remains: to save energy, our cars must remain light and get rid of what is not essential. A difficulty pushed to its climax with the hyper-connected “zero emission” car, which requires, in order to have a minimum of autonomy, to have batteries of several hundred kilos. Count approximately 400 kg for the accumulator for a simple Renault Zoe. “Just enough of everything”, here is the slogan that accompanies this Oli stripped and maintained at 110 km/h to maintain its radius of action. A doubly fitting mantra for a brand meant to be the most affordable in the Stellantis galaxy. On paper, everything seems to be lining up to succeed, finally the bet on the essential car. Problem, this Oli is only a study, and in 2022 Citroën is no longer alone in wanting to play the rejection card. If the relative failure of the C4 Cactus can always be attributed to bad timing, the obstacle to the pursuit of Chevrons this time has a name: Dacia.

To read also: what if Dacia was the only brand in line with the times?

Dacia is already occupying the ground

Because for several years, the Romanian manufacturer is no longer this manufacturer of low-cost cars. Sandero, Duster and Jogger remain “first prizes” in their categories, but their excellent performance now makes them more than recommendable and up-to-date cars. Benefiting from Renault’s industrial facilities, Dacia is gaining notoriety every day and conveys the message of the essential car better than anyone else.. He confirmed this again with the Manifesto concept, whose buggy orientation is not to be retained, but which embodies the fun and accessible object.

Currently, Dacia tries to think about its cars in the most intelligent way possible, from industrialization that is simplified as much as possible by design, to the use of recycled plastics. for stickers instead of chrome for the model names on the tailgates. Less electric therefore – although Dacia conveniently markets a modest Spring imported from China – but light cars, sober in fuel or consumables and above all accessible to everyone for a long time. Meanwhile, Citroën news comes from the large but highly successful C5 X, made in China and then imported, and the C5 Aircross, the essential compact SUV found in Europe. This old continent, where the best-selling private car is none other than a Sandero, which Dacia took 15 years to install. It is not that simple to produce the essential car, Citroën knows this very well.

The large Citroën C5 X is made in China.
The large Citroën C5 X is made in China.© Citroën

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