Lancia Returns to Carmaking With Something That's 100 Percent Not a Car

The Lancia Pu+Ra Zero concept shows the Italian carmaker's future design language — without wheels, windows, or most of the things you expect on a car.

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Lancia Pu+Ra Zero front quarter view
Image: Lancia

Lancia’s only car on sale today, the third-generation Ypsilon subcompact hatch, has been kicking around since 2011. It sells surprisingly well in its native Italy, the only country in which the brand operates, but Lancia has more ambitious plans for its future. Typically automakers get the hype train rolling with one or more concepts, and Lancia has adopted that strategy this week, unveiling a new design alongside an updated logo. Only, you can’t really call it a car.

Yes, Lancia — a brand that hasn’t introduced a new vehicle in over a decade — has opted to barrel right past the very achievable objective of “car” and go straight to “vaporwave pageantry.” It’s called the Pu+Ra Zero. “Zero” likely referencing the amount of harmful emissions it releases into the atmosphere. Not because it’s electric, but because it may as well not exist.

Lancia Pu+Ra Zero front view
Image: Lancia
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Harsh, I know, but I only complain because I care. Lancia says the Pu+Ra Zero represents “the first event of the new Lancia era.” In this, the company claims, we see hallmarks that will reappear in forthcoming models. Presumably that relates to the “grille” — an oversized piano black chevron festooned with LED strips — and the aforementioned logo.

Graphic showing the evolution of the Lancia logo, 1911 through today.
The evolution of the Lancia logo, 1911 through today at the far right.
Illustration: Lancia/Jalopnik
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The logo, to its credit, does actually call back to classic Lancia insignias, in that it reestablishes the spear over the shield that was central to all of the manufacturer’s many emblems before 2010. Admittedly, it achieves this in a way that feels kind of dead inside, but hey — that’s what automotive branding in the 2020s is all about.

Lancia Pu+Ra Zero side view
Image: Lancia
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The concept apparently harkens back to Lancia’s past as well, though I’m definitely not seeing the clues that the designers baked in. From the press release:

Lancia Pu+Ra Zero is composed of soft, fluid lines which recall the design of Aurelia B20 and Flaminia, with a circular roof that floods the cabin with light, in a game of balance between exteriors and interiors.

On the rear the round taillights stand out. They call back to those of the Stratos and will be used on the new Ypsilon with the new Lancia lettering positioned between the headlights. Finally, in a side view, the new logo stands out.

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Frankly, the Aurelia has never been quite my cup of tea, though I can’t deny it looks unlike anything else and totally recognize why it’s celebrated so. But I’m struggling to find any relation, at all, between that classic, curvy coupe and this levitating trackball mouse. That’s what my friend José called it; I see one of the 3D paint samples from Gran Turismo.

Lancia Pu+Ra Zero rear view
Image: Lancia
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Nor do I see any Stratos in the Pu+Ra Zero’s taillights. They’re ovals, not circles like the Stratos has. A much more fitting comparison would’ve been what’s on the back of a modern Bentley Continental.

Lancia says the Pu+Ra Zero is a distillation of its Pu+Ra design language — what it’s termed the guiding principles that will define its next models. (“Pu+Ra” is “pure” and “radical,” not a reference to plutonium and radium’s abbreviations on the periodic table.) The automaker will work with Italian furniture designer Cassina to inform its future interiors, which isn’t evident in this concept because it has no interior — just a reflecting pool of lights in the center.

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Lancia Pu+Ra Zero view of rear emblem and taillight
Image: Lancia

I suppose the optimistic, apologetic take on the Pu+Ra Zero is that it’s a modern-day envisioning of Bertone’s iconic Lancia Stratos Zero concept. The difference is that the Stratos Zero was a real, working car, even though it looked like a sculpture no human could ever fit inside. This was made possible thanks to an innovative approach to its canopy, where the entire windshield opened to allow ingress and egress, and the steering wheel was hinged to the floor. Seated within, you were practically lying on your back as the video below demonstrates.

Credit: NM2255 Car HD Videos on YouTube

Sure, the Stratos Zero was a deathtrap from another world, and it’d hardly reach production looking anything like that. But the fact the damn thing drove grounded the beauty, and the design achievement. Clearly, today’s Lancia is not motivated by performance, as it was in its golden years. It’s long since moved on, and there’s nothing objectively wrong with that. But a disembodied top-third of a generic 3D model is very hard to get excited about — especially when you just know all Lancia really needed to do to was show us a semi-attractive hatchback. We weren’t asking for much.