Here’s something I never thought I’d be writing: right now, Citroen might be the coolest car company in the world.
If you’re several hundred years old you might remember that they’ve managed this before, with cars like the Traction Avant and the incomparable DS. In fact, if you’re 37 like me, you should be able to remember a time when Citroen still rocked: the SM, the CX, the GS and even that plastic Riviera 2CV-in-drag beach buggy the Mehari all helped shape the 1970s as profoundly as Abba, fondue sets and the three-day week.
But Gavin & Stacey-style Saxoids apart, it’s been a lean few decades for France’s most reliably deranged car-maker. Citroen has really only managed one good thing since about 1980 and it can be summed up in two words: Sebastien Loeb. (Oh, and that mid-’80s ad which saw Grace Jones pop a CX GTi out of her arse.)
But with the Paris show now a slightly wine-sodden memory, one thing still sticks in my mind: the Citroen stand was teeming with stuff I loved. The new C3 Picasso looked terrific. I even tried one out for size (the Barlow family C-Max is getting a bit weary), and it’s as good inside as it is out; clever dash, versatile, fun. And nicely made, too, which after the current C3 hatch – a car with all the build integrity of a bread-stick, never mind a baguette – is a welcome improvement.
Then there was the C5 tourer or whatever they call it: very handsome. I even liked the Nemo van, and I’m not even a florist or wedding caterer. And there was a 2CV that had been given a 2008 make-over by posh person’s clothing emporium Hermes.
So the meat and potatoes of the range is pretty tasty. But it was the concept car eye-candy that really blew me away. The Hypnos was daft, but not that daft. The GT, meanwhile, looked magnificent, all folding metal and chaos theory curves, with an extension at the back designed to mimic the whizz-lines we all used to add to the fanciful doodles on our school exercise books. I sat in this Citroen too, and marvelled at its copper – copper! – cockpit.
Best of all, this is one pie-in-the-sky concept we’ll all be able to drive when Gran Turismo 5 is unleashed next year. On the Top Gear test track, amongst other circuits. This is a stroke of genius to match hydropneumatic suspension and Grace Jones’ bum.
‘It will help us target a whole new audience,’ Citroen’s advanced studio boss Gilles Vidal told me, knowing full well that he’d just stolen the show.
Suddenly, the ropey old Xsara is a very distant memory indeed…