The little Zoé, on the Renault stand at Geneva is – and this is not often seen in a research prototype – one of those combinations of avant-garde showcar and concrete solutions that are so successful you have no problem imagining them on the roads some time in the near future. With its large transparent surfaces, rounded volumes and interior spaces replete with charm and originality, the Renault concept seems purpose-built to win over a vast number of buyers, perhaps to create a “fashion”, as is what has happened in recent years with other small cars whose prices were not exactly give-aways but were irresistibly attractive.

Patrick Le Quément, Renault design supremo, tries to quash any untoward enthusiasm. “The project”, he says, “is unrelated to any future production plans but is based on a statistic that everyone will sooner or later have to come to terms with. The average number of people who travel in a car is 1.4 so, in a rational world, most cars would only have two seats.” True, this little concept car has three seats, and comfortable ones at that.

Asymmetry and a break with conventional ideas are the dominant theme of the Zoé design, starting with the system used for getting into it. A single door on the driver’s side with a wider, motorised one for the passengers that opens backwards along the side panel. Another trend-bucker is the basic layout of the cab which makes a bold philosophical statement: “The interior is a hymn of praise to emptiness and simplicity. See it as a way of fighting the follies of the world where spaces are more and more crowded with objects and all is confusion. Here there are very few controls and they are clear and easy to memorise. The exact opposite of the extreme hypertechnicality of other cars today”, says Le Quément in conclusion.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 152

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