“We want to throw out the box-on-wheels philosophy that has struck down MPVs so far”. So said Peter Horbury, head of design for China’s Geely Auto Group, as the firm revealed its striking MPV Concept at the Shanghai motor show.
The people carrier was one of the more interesting cars unveiled by Chinese companies at the show in that it was clearly a production ready concept, but wasn’t an SUV or battery powered (no mention of powertrain was made).
MPVs remain popular in China, but so far they’ve been mainly utilitarian in look, and not particularly aspirational. What the Geely team did was to take some SUV cues such as the higher beltline and body cladding to create a more desirable shape, much like Renault achieved with the Espace. “We wanted to create something refined, dynamic and user orientated,” Horbury said on stage.
The inspiration for Geely's first MPV came from private jets, Guy Burgoyne, head of Geely Design China, said at the reveal: “We wanted a shape that could cut through the air with relative ease and provide the comfort that your own personal jet brings.”
MPVs are sometimes bought by Chinese who can afford a chauffeur, because they value the extra space in the rear, and uppermost in the team's thinking was the uniquely Chinese idea of the traditional family - parents, grandparents and children, very often seated in that order from front to back.
The forward-positioned cabin with its raked-back screen gives the car what Burgoyne called a “solid, powerful and sporty look”. Pairing it with 20-inch wheels apparently helped, too. A glass roof flows into the rear screen to increase the interior light, while the taillights are likened to “ribbons used in gymnastics."
The front grille is an updated and more subtle version of Geely’s ‘ripple in the pool’ design, with a clever trick up its sleeve - its fabric covering conceals LED lights which can flash a unique signature or pattern to help locate your own car.
The interior, too, has a plethora of LED panels, including all of the door panels which link together with a dash-wide display to make the whole inside of the car into a video playground in which occupants can play retro low-res games like Pong and Snake. "Just not the driver, unless it's in autonomous mode..." observed Burgoyne drily. The interior can also change colour to match your clothes, and even your mood, thanks to bio-sensors neatly integrated into the seat stitching.
The team have certainly had some fun with the interior tech, though as Burgoyne admitted, while the exterior is almost production-ready, the interior was much more of a conceptual prototype.
The exterior detailing's not short of thoughtful and often quite intricate ideas, however, many of them referencing a carefully researched yet subtle idea of the brand's Chinese identity. "There are certain patterns that crop up all the time in China," Burgoyne explained, "which we've tried to reference - but in a subtle, low-key way rather than being too cheesy and obvious. It works both ways; our customers will feel immediately comfortable with the motifs, and maybe when they see them used elsewhere they'll associate them with Geely." Guerilla branding? "Well, maybe..."