Citroën is celebrating its centenary with the 19_19 Concept, a vision of future cars that draws on the previous 100 years of the company.

While the smaller AMI Concept focuses on affordable urban mobility - where the 2CV once sat - the 19_19 is all about effortless comfort and sophistication out on the road, in the space that the DS once occupied. 

Those who follow motoring brands will be no stranger to such concepts and at first glance, we can't really see this futuristic bubble on 30-inch wheels going into production, unlike the 2013 Cactus Concept, which pretty much defined Citroën's SUV models that followed.

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Rolling on dubs

Starting with those wheels feels appropriate because it's impossible not to gawp at them. So many concepts conceal or cover the wheels, but the 19_19 feels like a celebration of the thing that really defines cars. For this concept, Citroën worked with Goodyear to create a custom tyre that only sits on the outer rim of the wheel, but envelopes it, running into the centre of the hub and setting up a theme - outside in and inside out. 

Showing all is something that the 19_19 is proud of. The parts that make it up don't hide under a façade, it doesn't keep its technology hidden from sight, it wears it like a badge. In an era where car makers are struggling to conceal a growing number of sensors and cameras on vehicles, this concept lays it refreshingly bare. 

That's as apparent from the top fins - which house the lidar systems to scan and detect the road to facilitate autonomous driving - to the rear fin of the car's underbody which is emblazoned with CPU lettering and LEDs, and shaped like an aeroplane's rudder. It's more Starship Enterprise than typical Earth car.

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It's entirely deliberate, of course, with sections of the main body carrying transparency too, labels like "proxy sensor" on the front bumpers. When so many people are talking about technology in cars, why hide it when it can be celebrated.

So there's definitely a geeky tech appeal to the 19_19 Concept that we fully appreciate, with the icing on the cake being the customisable panel in the door. Here is was a message to VivaTech visitors at the Paris show where it was unveiled, but we'd certainly have a lot of fun with a customisable display on the outside of our cars.

One of the things that Citroën wanted to achieve was a central pod like a lounge, inviting you to relax or drive, isolated from the functional parts of the car. That's why the wheels are so separate, almost in isolation, giving the sense that the passengers will just have a serene ride and nothing else. "Progressive Hydraulic Cushions" provide the comfort, harking back to the hydropneumatic suspension that's synonymous with Citroën.

With that cabin riding high, there's plenty of space for a huge battery to sit in the floor of this concept car. Citroën says that it is designed to do 800km WLTP, washing away range anxiety, but as this is a concept, you can probably set that figure to one side and not worry about it too much. It also boasts wireless charging from roads that will give you power. 

Hello Citroën

One other detail isn't so much a nod to the future as an acceptance of the now. Sitting in the centre top of the dashboard is a cylindrical device that looks a lot like a smart speaker. That's essentially what it is. Designed to retract when not in control of the car, this technological monolith rises from the dash ready to serve when you start talking to it.

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This personal assistant allows the removal of buttons around the cabin, instead providing features on command. It also controls the projection entertainment for the passengers and once in autonomous mode, the driver's seat retracts and you can all watch movies together.

Sure, it's all a long way from being legal, but it's not entirely pie in the sky. The 19_19 Concept is a celebration of all things Citroën past, pulling on those heritage threads that can easily get lost. It's about sophistication and comfort, about a smooth ride for all the passengers.

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At the same time it's a nod to the very real future: the technologies for autonomous cars are all well in development even if the legislative grounding for them is not; there's no shortage of voice assistants that could conceivably do the things envisioned here and we're on the cusp of the electric car revolution

Sure, it might not look like this, but the vision it represents might not be too far fetched.