Is it a car? Is it a van? Is it an SUV? According to Nissan, its Townpod concept, which debuted this morning at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, is a little of everything.
Externally, designers blended a number of styling cues from the Cube and Leaf, lending the Townpod a tall, boxy stature, while simultaneously blessing it with a long, tapered nose. The small, elongated headlamps, along with the slender air intake opening, give the Townpod's front fascia an odd, alien-like appearance.
Although the Townpod is roughly the same size as the compact Leaf, Nissan worked hard to increase its versatility. Rear-hinged half-doors allow access to the rear seat, while access to the rear cargo area is provided by two wide-opening panel doors. The rear bench itself folds flat and retracts into the front seating assembly, opening up a flat, unencumbered load floor. Those needing to carry very long items -- scaffolding and surfboards alike -- will likely need to pop open a roof-mounted hatch, located just above the rear cargo doors. Inside, the flowing dashboard takes the Jacuzzi Lounge design theme used in the Cube to a whole new level. The relatively bare dashboard has been stripped of all mechanical switchgear, leaving only a pair of LCD screens. Drivers will control ventilation, audio, and navigation systems through the lower (touch-sensitive) display, along with controls on the steering wheel. Bluetooth allows drivers to wirelessly connect to smartphones and audio devices, but Nissan's proud of what it calls The Puck -- a small, slotted rubber ball that can hold a number of accessories, including cell phone mounts, cup holders, bag hooks, and other paraphernalia. Nissan won't say much about the electric drivetrain underneath (it's likely quite similar, if not identical, to that used in the 2011 Leaf), nor will it refer to the Townpod as anything but a conceptual design. Although this car itself may not make it to market, incorporating some of its versatile features into future vehicles may help make an electric-powered C-segment vehicle increasingly palatable to many customers.
For Automobile Magazine's complete coverage of the 2010 Paris show, head to the show index page to read about the exciting debuts from Audi, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Lotus, and all your other favorite brands.