By Design

By Design: Skoda Vision C

By Design

I’m not a golfer, but I can guess that teeing off in a crosswind must involve some mental calculation, just as it does when flying a small airplane. You visualize where you (or that little white ball) want to go and aim upwind so that the base of the triangle you visualize has an end exactly on the green or at the destination airport.

Maybe that abstract navigational shape is what inspired all of the triangles on the intriguing Škoda Vision C concept car—headlights, foglights, taillights, quarter windows, and the forty bright triangular teeth on the wheels. The designers of this Volkswagen variant even talked about “triangular cubist elements” in the sculpting of the rear fascia. What that actually means is that they traded trunk volume for zoomy styling, which is OK for a concept car.

Europeans have the luxury of buying VW Golfs in literally dozens of forms carrying three or four different nameplates (depending on how you perceive Golf-based “luxury” small Audis). In the commodity-car arena, there are Seat and Škoda models that give you exactly the platform of VW mother models, with different—and sometimes better—appearances. So if you are in the market for a polyvalent family car, you’ve got to navigate a marketing triangle within the VW Group. Seats and Škodas generally cost about the same, and the closest equivalent VW is priced a bit higher than either derivative. Anecdotally, I’ve always suspected Škodas were better made than the other two, although I have no proof that’s true.

Of the mass-market marques over which Herr Piëch presides, Škoda is by far the oldest, and it has a distinguished history. True, the Russian-ruled Communist-era Czech rear-engine models were generally a bad joke, but during the 100-plus years the company has existed, it earned a reputation for excellent quality and reliability. Today, it seems that half of the taxicabs in Paris are Škoda Octavias, as satisfactory as Mercedes-Benzes and less onerous to buy and maintain.

The Škoda Vision C concept coupe is very much in the mode of the VW CC, Mercedes CLS, etc., and it could very well presage a production model. At any rate, we can reasonably assume that the sharp lines, chiseled details, and simple frontal composition will show up, if not on a four-door coupe, then on a more sedanlike model or even a hatchback. Its hidden door handles might not make it to production, although they should, but it is interesting to see that the forms of this car are so simple they can be stamped with only a couple of strikes of the press—one for forming, one for trimming and flanging.

Apart from those “missing” door handles, there’s not much innovation here, but the ensemble is clean, clear, direct, and rather elegant. It would certainly be my choice over any comparable VW, if only for the relative exclusivity—and the wonderful component commonality that would make maintenance a snap.

Front 3/4 View

1. In general, I dislike converging grille bars, but the Škoda workout is acceptable even to me because they’re short.

2. There is some tricky surfacing as this concave section on the sides transitions to the convex hood-centerline section. Very nicely handled and quite interesting.

3. The very center of the hood has a nice aerodynamic profile in pure side view.

4. The sharp break from the nearly horizontal hood surface to the fender concavity fades as it aligns with the grille profile halfway outward from the raised center section.

5. The painted portion of the A-pillar is slimmer at the bottom than at the roof intersection, giving a general lightness to the upper part of the body.

6. Even the too-small show-car mirror embodies the triangle theme.

7. Škoda calls this sharp break “the tornado line,” a silly name for a smartly sharp linear definition line from headlight peak to taillight peak, where it transitions across the tail.

8. The body sides are extremely simple and easy to make but lacking in shopping-cart-impact protection.

9. Ten triangles per wheel is perhaps carrying the theme a bit far. But they should sparkle nicely when turning.

10. The lenses are triangular, and the holes in which they sit are rectangles but with yet another painted triangle below the headlights.

Rear 3/4 View

11. Still another painted triangle below the rear lamp lens, and yet one more above it.

12. The fluidity of this surface— part deck, part fender, and part roof pillar—is subtle and ties together all the disparate volumes beautifully.

13. This concave strip can be seen to slowly develop from the intersection of roof and door if you check the door cuts from rear to front.

14. The usual wheelhouse bulge stops under the sharp line, which is encompassed entirely in the hood, so that there are no obvious hood-opening cutlines on the car, an elegant solution.

15. The door handles are tucked below the “tornado line” so that they’re all but invisible. Touch them and something you can grip pops out.

16. An unusual touch is having the bright trim only along the bottom edge of the side glass.

17. A last triangle, transparent this time.

18. This hollowed-out corner leaves a nice sweeping transverse line across the lower back of the body, with more red lenses below it. Simple, but very nice.

19. Having a rather narrow bumper strike face would seem to leave the rear corners of the body vulnerable to damage.

20. It appears that you would put your hand under this part of the “triangular cubist” trunk lid, but as you lifted, the trailing tail part below would interfere with your arm.

Interior View

21. The seats are very simple, with an embossed rather than stitched diamond pattern.

22. The overall impression of the triangle-free interior is almost austere, but this sculpted shifter is a particularly pleasing design element.

23. Huge glove-box door promises adequate space, but one never knows without opening, not possible for show visitors.

24. Straightforward placement of instruments directly in front of the driver, with a prominent glare shield as a practical touch.