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Previewing an upcoming production model called the C4 Cactus and presenting a vision for future affordable C-line (non-DS) models is the Citroen Cactus concept, which the French carmaker is bringing to the Frankfurt show in a few days’ time.

See those grey lumps on the sides and bumpers? They’re called Airbumps, and they feature air capsules covered in a soft skin to protect the body against scratches and to absorb impacts. They’re customisable too, coming in a selection of colours.

Other interesting elements include a ‘floating’ roof and rear quarter panels, 3D-effect LED tail lamps and black wheelarches. There’re no side windows, rear windows or B-pillars. The Citroen Cactus concept measures 4,210 mm long, 1,750 mm wide and 1,530 mm tall, and sits 210 mm off the ground.

The cabin features a slender, floating dashboard with a fully digital interface. The instrument panel has been replaced by a seven-inch screen, controls and buttons make way for an eight-inch touchscreen and the traditional gear lever is eschewed for shift paddles and push-button controls on the lower part of the dashboard. The passenger airbag has actually been installed on the ceiling!

The eight-inch touchscreen controls all driving commands as well as provides access to Citroen’s Multicity Connect suite of web apps. Information such as traffic delays, tourist destinations and petrol station locations can be had.

Inspired by contemporary furniture design, the front seats were designed in the style of a sofa, while the treatment of the upper storage areas and inside door handles were inspired by luxury luggage styling. Natural materials such as cotton fabric and camel leather can be found throughout, including on the steering wheel, seats and door handles.

Citroen C4 Cactus 2

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus spied testing.

The concept’s Hybrid Air powertrain sees compressed air working together with an internal combustion engine – in this case a PureTech unit (Citroen’s new family of clean and green three-cylinder turbo motors), although the specifics of that engine have yet to be divulged.

On the ‘air’ side, an energy storage unit uses compressed air to drive a hydraulic pump/motor which then drives the wheels. So there’s no electric motor or battery to take up interior space. Citroen claims the system delivers a fuel economy in excess of 3.0 litres per 100 km.

Reports say the production Citroen C4 Cactus (see more spyshots below) will be sold alongside the existing C4 hatch when it arrives early next year, but it is yet unclear if it will eventually replace the C4 hatch or if it is just a crossover addition to the C4 range.