Peugeot Instinct Concept ride review

We went to France for a ride in Peugeot's stunning autonomous Instinct Concept

The Peugeot Instinct is a dramatic, exciting and tech-laden preview of the future for a brand that has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Granted, we didn’t learn much about the driving experience on this brief encounter, but if Peugeot can integrate all of the Instinct’s systems and, importantly, retain the unique design and materials, it looks like the brand’s autonomous car of the future could be a seriously desirable one.

Peugeot’s biggest crowd pleaser at this year’s Geneva Motor Show was undoubtedly the Instinct Concept. From a company that nowadays prioritizes building small cars and family SUVs, a sleek ‘shooting brake’ with suicide doors, active aerodynamics and shape-shifting seats was always going to cause a stir. 

Unlike most jaw-dropping motor show concepts that have to be manhandled into the public eye by minders, though, the Instinct is actually a functioning vehicle. To get a bit more of an insight, Auto Express was invited for a brief stint behind the wheel (of sorts) on the roof of Peugeot’s Design Centre in Velizy, France. 

As well as being tasked with showcasing Peugeot’s styling direction in years to come, the family hatch-sized Instinct is also the French carmaker’s first stab at designing a fully autonomous vehicle. Head of Concept Vehicles, Matthias Hossann, told us this was a “completely different process” for the design team. 

“Most of the time we will design a car with a sleek exterior shape, and then work-out the interior and packaging afterwards. This time, we came up with the interior design first. We wanted to create a living room feeling”. 

Producing the ultimate interior for an autonomous vehicle is even more important than it is for today’s cars, Peugeot’s bosses say. The freedom given to the driver by letting them take their hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals also means the cabin will need to be a more interactive, enticing place to while-away the hours. 

The Instinct takes elements of Peugeot’s current ‘iCockpit’ cabin architecture and evolves it for the autonomous era, with two distinct setups in Drive and Autonomous mode. Select the latter and the whole cabin transforms: the steering column electrically glides back into the dash, the throttle pedal retracts and those figure hugging seats slide down and recline. Neatly, the upper portion of the seat frame stays where it is so it doesn’t impact on rear legroom. Peugeot has also deliberately avoided offering any sort of swivelling seat as such features are not practically possible on a car that’s no longer than a 308, and lower to the ground than most sports cars

Given the solidity of this concept car’s seat it’s a surprisingly comfortable place to spend time. And while it’s disconcerting not having a wheel to grab hold of, the driver can adjust how the autonomous tech behaves (for example, by overtaking) via the ‘i-Device’ mouse-style central controller.

We were allowed to circle the design centre’s roof at very low speeds with the car in Drive mode, and then in Autonomous mode with the wheel retracted. However, as Peugeot hasn’t yet applied the multitude of sensors and computers required for its promised Level 5 automation, that part was taken care of via a minder and a remote control. 

While the show car is in theory powered by a 297bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Instinct here was only able to glide silently on electric power. Our short stint certainly isn’t enough to give a dynamic impression, then, but it did allow us to appreciate how the interior would operate in a real-world situation.

Two things are unique to the Instinct experience and make it stand out from other driverless concepts – the tech on display and the materials used. Peugeot is the first carmaker to integrate Samsung’s Artik Cloud ‘Internet of Things’ platform into one of its concepts. Through various touchscreen displays for both drive and passenger, it can monitor the health of the occupants and automatically set the car up to suit their mood, synchronise the driver’s diary with the navigation system, and even communicate with your home.  There’s also a ‘chatbot’, a personal assistant that can be told to do things such as book cinema tickets or suggest new destinations that the driver may be interested in.

It all sounds like a bit of a stark, cold tech overload but Peugeot has also been inventive with the cabin materials used to create a more homely environment. The seats of this concept are trimmed in the same breathable fabric that you’d find in a training shoe, with 3D printed foam inserts higher up the frame. Traditional thick knitted carpets also feature, while the most surprising material in use is concrete: a thin layer is applied to the lower doors and floor, with a more appealing texture than you might expect. It certainly seems like the French brand understands that buyers want future vehicles to be high-tech, but also welcoming. 

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review
Porsche Macan prototype - front
Porsche Macan

New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review

We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the facelifted Porsche Macan SUV
13 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
New Vauxhall Astra prototype review
Vauxhall Astra prototype - front
Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review

A new Vauxhall Astra is on the way and we've driven a prototype ahead of its official arrival
14 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'
Honda opinion
Opinion

'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'

Mike Rutherford is worried about Honda's future, despite its recent motorsport success
6 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021