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by Tim Beissmann

Proton, in partnership with Lotus and Italdesign Giugiaro, is set to unveil an all-new hybrid city car at next week’s Geneva Motor Show that claims to break new ground in automotive design.

Italdesign Giugiaro chairman, Giorgetto Giugiaro, said the unnamed concept is the outcome of several years of development and study by the trio.

“Our aim was to offer the interior space of a medium-sized car while keeping the overall exterior dimensions of a small car.

“The solution allows interior spaciousness on par with that of a segment-D saloon despite maintaining the exterior dimensions of a segment-A car.

“You could say that it is a brand new type of car – a new automotive concept where looks are as important as function, ergonomics and comfort, not to mention environmental impact,” Mr Giugiaro said.

To be revealed in both three- and five-door hatchback variants, the baby Proton is powered by a Lotus-developed hybrid-drive system. It combines a 1.2-litre three-cylinder range-extending engine that helps recharge the batteries and powers the electric motor which drives the car (similar to Chevrolet’s Voltec system).

The floor is raised in the rear to house the batteries, but Italdesign Giugiaro says comfort, space and accessibility for both the driver and passengers has not been compromised, but enhanced.

“It is higher than other compact cars to make the best use of interior space. The seat H-point is at the same height as the passengers’ hips – you do not get down into your car as in a coupe, you do not climb up as in an SUV but you enter in a natural way.

“Rear seat comfort when you enter and leave the car is absolutely unprecedented, the distance from the front seat is comparable to that of an SUV,” Mr Giugiaro said.

So far there is no word on aspects like boot space or fuel economy, but the big claims from the little car will be put to the test when it debuts at the Geneva Motor Show from March 2.