Pitch Perfect

Three new models from three distinct manufacturers. Each playing the same notes – but in a different order.

Fun anyone? Image: automobilemag

Last week saw several new car announcements, three of which we’re specifically interested in today. We open with the official release of what has felt like one of the least titillating stripteases in recent history – the Hyundai Kona crossover. This vehicle, the Korean car giant’s entry to the Captur/Juke sector has been seen in various forms of reveal for weeks now, so its advent has at least stemmed the vexing but unavoidable PR-drip-feed throughout the automotive tabloids that appears de rigueur these days. Others better qualified than I might have more to say about the Kona’s styling – of which there appears to be an awful amount – but suffice to say it’s staggeringly busy.

Is that a DS3-esque ‘shark-fin’ C-pillar I see before me? Image: What Car?

Which brings us rather neatly to the second reveal of last week, Citroën’s awaited C3 Aircross. Looking for all the world like a production version of the concept Citroën showed at Geneva this spring, the Aircross will join the Kona in the compact crossover playpen and we can only hope they play nicely together. The aircross maintains the brand’s family ‘face’ (one which Hyundai could be accused here of pilfering to some extent) and while it wouldn’t be a nu-Citroën without some gimmick-laden garnish sprinkled hither and thither, it presents a more sober visage to the world than the one more associated with the funster, Jackson. Further solace is to be found in that the Aircross also appears to be an airbump-free zone.

Citroën seem to have gone to some effort with the interior which is cheerful and it appears, versatile. In launch specification at least, it’s also available in five colours. I’m holding fire on the aesthetics, given that my own view of the C3 hatch deteriorated markedly once I began seeing them in the wild.

2018 VW Polo. Image: carwow

The third car which bookends this particular triptych is Volkswagen’s new Polo. What is it doing here you ask? Well, if one looks at what both Hyundai and VW are doing, we see the polar extremities of mainstream contemporary car styling. The Korean effort is all about noise and attention. The Polo on the other hand appears if anything, to suggest the end of styling. As is now the German default, the VW strives for a look of studied invariance while subtly telegraphing that it’s the new model.

Polo interior. Image: Car

With Neu-Polo, it’s all about the interior, it seems – and of course, the tech. Whether the exterior changes – it’s said to be on the latest corporate platform and VW are making all the usual noises about lighter weight and greater efficiency – are successful are again for others to judge, but one could certainly frame a cogent argument to suggest the outgoing design didn’t really need updating.

While the ultra-conservative Polo sits close to or at the very top of the B-segment ‘supermini’ class, both Citroën and Hyundai represent the sector’s insecure, attention seeking, and slightly annoying younger siblings. They also represent the current direction of travel. In real world terms, I’d suggest it’s likely to play out something like this.

The Hyundai will do the numbers because European buyers trust them, the Polo will strengthen VW’s position against the Fiesta and Citroën will continue to struggle to make any meaningful headway outside the domestic market, because PSA haven’t tangibly addressed the fundamentals. The C3 Aircross seems like a decent effort, but it’s likely to be at least two-to three years too late.

All of which goes to suggest that if you play it loud, and with enough conviction, you’ll get away with anything.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Pitch Perfect”

  1. The lens flare on the Polo interior photo is an original touch. It suggests you are viewing the car interior from the rear seats at the start of a clear, delightful summer’s day. It’s so evocative. Wow.

    1. It gets better: the Polo is shown at an airport (albeit a small one). The use of the airport background suggests not that the Polo is a white-painted utility vehicle without license plates but that the owner is about to drive off after landing their private plane (maybe it’s John Travolta’s car). Again, the imagery is just brilliant at conjouring the aspirations of the intended customers.

  2. Easy to mock VW’s marketing here, although the ‘jungle’ setting for the Hyundai is about as convincing as it would be in a glamour model shoot.

    Excessively large rims aside, the Polo is a staggeringly competent piece of design though, no?

    1. Yes, the Polo is competent and
      fault free. I can’t argue against that. Like the new Fiesta and Corsa, it’s a sideways move.
      The jungle might be silly too but so silly as to be excusable. It is less absurd than the airport since it is easier to drive in a wild setting than to drive on an airport apron.

  3. In my opinion, the Polo has lost quite something of its clear design.
    The plastic extension of the motor bonnet is trashy – and it adds an additional visible and senseless body-gap to the front and destroys the horizontal harmony of front grille and front lamps. The same fault like the Arteon has. I am sure such a detail would have never been accepted by Master Piech.
    And the non-VW-like sculptured side part over the door-handles surely was necessary to cover the mass of steel above the door-handles – or the reduction of the glass part…
    For me it looks like another version of the Seat Ibiza.

    The Ibiza, i was quite shocked, managed to be more thirsty and less fast than its predecessor – compared with the same engines. A very rare fact in the last years….

    I really like the interior of the Aircross, this car is much more practical than the Crossland. I am convinced it would steal some clients especially from its new brother. A very friendly looking SUV, but i begin to long for a new Citroen-design after the Picasso, Cactus, C3, and the Aircrossers…

    1. So you noticed the rat-hole around the lamp too? Is it possible some crash regulation has been met? That little gap surprised me. I’ll investigate the other details…

    2. And the Crossland: it is possible Opel sacrificed a lot in compromising with PSA. Demand for these cars is quite high though; in an expanding market the will probably make their sales targets.

  4. I have the same feeling about the Polo as Markus expresses. A lot of additions, but they don’t add to the quality or consistency of the design. I’d have supported Jacomo’s statement for the last generation Polo, but not for this one. All newer VWs suffer from this: more creases, busy front grille / lamp treatments, less pleasant proportions than their predecessors.

  5. I really don’t like the Hyundai and would rather they don’t bother bringing it to the UK, but they will given the growth in the market. I think the positioning if the Aircross is uncomfortably tight between the vanilla C3 and the C4 Cactus. I can only assume that they dropped the Airbumps on this one as otherwise it would have demolished the sales of the the Cactus, which I still feel had been a sales disappointment to PSA, even if the motoring press liked it. The Aircross is a similar size, more practical, has wind up rear windows and is fresh. The concept had Airbumps positioned at the bottom edge of the doors, helping to reduce the depth and slabbiness of that side elevation, so I feel this was a deliberate tactical deletion.

    The Polo is a Curate’s Egg for me. I like the more expressive yet still quality looking dash. The exterior manages to look a shade more sleek and has a nice stance, but elements are fussy and the rear lamps stick out as poorly integrated. I prefer the exterior of the Ibiza, which I find very handsome, like a smaller version of the new CX-5.

    The car I like more the more I see if it is the current Fabia, and I was not initially a fan.

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