The newest generation of one of VW’s non-Golf evergreens stands for the greater malaise of the German car industry – and acute deficits chez Wolfsburg
To the untrained eye, this newest generation of Polo looks pretty much the same as its predecessor. Alas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whereas the Polo V was a small stylistic gem, boasting subtle craftsmanship of the highest order, from its expert surfacing to the delicacy of its detailing, this new car’s styling achieves the feat of managing to be barely different on a superficial level yet infinitely inferior upon closer inspection.
Intriguingly, it shares this trait with BMW’s most recent generation of the venerable 5 series. Bizarrely, it also shares one particular styling gimmick with the Bavarian car, one which is equally daft in either case.
The dart-like feature on both cars’ profiles really stands for the greater issue that’s at the core of both these automobile’s designs. Both are deeply conservative (one might even say: timid) efforts, yet their detailing is obviously supposed to distract from this lack of panache.
It’s almost as though a single symbol of ‘progress’ was needed to illustrate that both these cars are actually, you know, progressive. And instead of going for a challenging concept or form language, the formula that has served so well so far is expanded with an attention grabbing feature, or feature line, in this case.
There will be lots and lots of marketing texts waxing lyrical about the dashing quality of the Polo’s ‘Toronado line’ (their name, not mine) or the BMW’s ‘three-dimensional assault on the preconception of what a feature line can visually achieve’ (my words, not theirs). But, in truth, they’re a minor sign of desperation. They are anything but assured and confident.
And, in the VW’s case, they’re even of appalling craftsmanship. Next its cheaper siblings, be they of Mladá Boleslav or Martorell origin, the Polo simply appears clumsy and cheap. To say nothing of its predecessor.
So it’s not just the basic idea, but also the execution that’s lacking. How Skoda can mass produce a Superb with panel gaps and creases of laser-like precision, while VW signs off a body that’s so clumsily surfaced is simply baffling.
History, as one of Driven to Write’s main contributors likes to point out, has the habit of repeating itself. In that sense, parallels may be drawn between the era of 1980s VW chief designer, Herbert Schäfer, and the current incumbent, Klaus Bischoff. Both followed in the footsteps of Italians who had laid the groundwork for an enormously successful generation of Volkswagens. Both Germans then went on to add brute ornamentation to the previous models’ forms, just for the hell of it.
On the basis of VW’s most recent cars, we can consider VW to be at the dawn of a ‘Heidedesign 2.0’ period. The days of assured restraint at Wolfsburg are officially over. The days of creative derring-do have yet to come.
The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com