SAIC's 'start-up' brand Roewe launched its N1 concept at the 2009 Shanghai auto show to preface a forthcoming sportier production sedan that will sit slightly below the existing 550.

The N1 is shorter than the 550 (4.6m vs. 4.7m approximately) but SAIC's China design boss Ken Ma said the N1 has a longer cabin and will offer greater interior space. The car has a more cab-forward look than the 550 and features a squarer front face with more angular lights and a grille featuring just a single horizontal vane, above which has been slotted the heraldic Roewe badge (moved down from the hood). The side profile is more dramatic than the 550 with a pronounced BMW 3 Series-esque side crease starting at the front door and rising upwards and then right back to join the rear lights.

Ma told Car Design News one of the main the ideas behind the concept was to create a "net car" (thus its 'N1' name) that would appeal to younger families by acting as "a moving information platform". Part of that functionality could come from the large TFT screen that occupies the whole space behind the steering wheel - complete with graphically convincing virtual driver's dials - and that could potentially also display pop-up boxes describing local road conditions, satnav information and more.

The Roewe N1's interior also features an unusual see-through blue plastic center stack design with switches partially embedded in the sides as the focal point for a cabin that otherwise looks very production-ready. Indeed, a production version of this concept potentially badged '350' could be on sale as early as 2010. Roewe's range expansion will not stop there either. Set to follow is a Roewe-badged Land Rover Freelander-sized small SUV and a smaller supermini from sister SAIC brand MG.