The next generation of high-performance car design is apt to be as much about innovative use of materials as it is about aggressive shapes and huge horsepower numbers. The VanAsperen '202,61' is a step in that direction, combining coachwork of recyclable plastic and a lightweight steel spaceframe for a total weight of only 1,870lb (850kg) despite offering four doors and four seats.

The 202,61 was designed by recently graduated design student Ivan van Asperen, and named after two cars that inspired it - the Cisitalia 202 and the Maserati Tipo 61. The VanAsperen concept claims a power-to-weight ratio equivalent to that of the Porsche 911. That power comes from a 200hp (149kW) Honda Civic Type-R engine, and despite the high power-to-weight claims, the targeted performance segment is that of the BMW 330i, Mazda RX8 and Nissan 350Z.

Low weight means low fuel consumption, especially in combination with an efficient naturally aspirated four-cylinder from Honda, so the VanAsperen design has clear merits. On the other hand, designing such a lightweight car is fine until safety standards must be met; finding a way to make the structure sufficiently rigid and yet deformable without adding substantial amounts of mass is the hard part. And so far, achieving sufficient deformation to dissipate the energy of a crash while maintaining the integrity of the passenger cell has been the key to high scores on crash tests.

Nevertheless, it's an attractive experiment in a field that's sure to have a future. Now it's time for the engineers to tackle the underlying problems and turn such visions into reality.