Assystem City Car tried to put the car outside the box

Back in 2007, when I had the chance to cover the Geneva Motor Show in person (and had a laptop stolen at the train to Montreaux, beware!), I could see a concept that many will consider to be ugly, strange and so forth. But the Assystem City Car is still something very interesting to see and to discuss. Not because of its looks, but because of its attempt to get the car outside the box. In other words, the fact that it has tried to break the mould. Almost 10 years after that, it is still an interesting idea. Have a look at it:

The Assystem City Car was designed by Franco Sbarro, famous for its unusual cars. And the City Car is no exception. It is 3.60 m long, 1.60 m wide, in its widest part, and 1.60 m tall. We cannot talk about wheelbase because the car does not have 2 axles that would allow anyone to calculate it. It has 3 axles: 1 in front, with a single wheel, a central one, with 2 wheels, and a rear one, also with only one wheel. And this is the main characteristic of this car. Instead of having one wheel in each corner, like a box would, it has a diamond disposition.

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Its main engine is a petrol powerplant that Assystem has not described entirely, but that powers the rear wheel. It generates 44 kW and can make the City Car reach a top speed of 130 km/h, more than enough for most roads around the world. The car also has a front electric engine that delivers 20 kW more to the vehicle. That makes it a hybrid.

Running solely on electricity, the Assystem City Car would have a 30 km range and could reach a top speed of 50 km/h. With the rear engine also helping, its total range could be up to 600 km.

Since the wheels equipped with engines can turn up to 90º, the car can rotate over its own axis, what makes it have virtually no turning circle, as the video shows better than words.

If you think the car is just an imagination exercise, think again. At least one fully operational unit has been built. Exactly the one I have seen at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show. The one you can see below.

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Assystem, at the time, was willing to mass produce the car, but that didn’t go any further. Possibly because it had another unusual proposition: a 40-inch television screen that would emerge from the dashboard in case of bad weather. Special cameras would present a better vision of the road, according to Assystem. Or possibly just because it was not very good to look at. Whatever the reason was, the fact is that the City Car has proposed an interesting alternative to the regular wheel disposition cars present. And it may be suitable for autonomous cars of even for people who are not very good at parking. If Goodyear does not produce its Eagle-36o tire until then.

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

I have been an automotive journalist since 1998 and have worked for many important Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as the local edition of Car and Driver and Quatro Rodas, Brazilian's biggest car magazine. I have also worked for foreign websites, such as World Car Fans and won a few journalism prizes, among them three SAE Journalism Awards and the 2017 IAM RoadSmart Safety Award. I am the author of "The Traffic Cholesterol", a book about bad drivers that you can buy at Hotmart, Google Play, Amazon and Kobo.