Tense nervous headache? Too many Vierzylinder schnappes? Take one of these white pills…
There is only so much ugliness anyone can take at a sitting and since as we have seen, the Bayerische Motoren Werke are now so firmly into the arena of the revolting, it is my belief that there simply isn’t any point in dignifying their efforts further.
Amidst the dreary, the predictable and the outright offensive this week, one finds one’s consolations where one can. Because there are pinpricks of light to be found. Peugeot’s lovely, if impractical eLegend concept, Suzuki’s refreshingly simple utility vehicle in miniature and Škoda’s latest Vision RS concept.
It’s been quite a journey for the Czech carmaker – from outlier and butt of every pound-shop standup’s punchline to where brand Škoda finds itself today. By any stretch of the imagination, it’s got to be the reputational turn-around of the century. Believed to prefigure the forthcoming Rapid, the handsome, well proportioned (and believed to be close to production-ready) new version replaces a dated and lacklustre range of cars, once it enters production early next year.
The new car will be larger than before, pushing it closer in size to the core C-segment, a section of the market Škoda has hitherto either shunned or has been forbidden to enter, and one sister-brand VW has made its own. Speculation is that its role is to occupy the space the current Golf will vacate once the forthcoming, more upmarket and more expensive 8th generation emerges later in 2019.
Yesterday, writing in Autocar, journalist, Hilton Holloway suggested that Škoda has become the ‘new Volvo’. He has something of a point, but I would suggest that it is Saab that the Czech carmaker now more closely resembles. While there was traditionally a hint of the social climber about Gothenberg’s finest, Škoda, like the now deceased Trollhätten brand, appears entirely and unapologetically classless. They also share a clarity of purpose, an emphasis on practicality and a refreshing lack of frippery.
What Škoda and Volvo do share however is perhaps the best realised styling of anyone, perhaps this side of Mazda at least. Elegantly and calmly surfaced, Škoda’s crisp tailored lines are in stark contrast to the VW mothership’s current fevered efforts, to say nothing of what is being squeezed out of Ingolstadt nowadays. Because ironically, the Czech cars in their sober rectitude now appear the more upmarket offerings.
And yet the one word which has been conspicuous by its absence from any representative of Mladá Boleslav is ‘premium’. But with profit margins of over 9% (close to those who do use the dreaded p-word), there is a strong suggestion that they don’t need to be. Anyway, one suspects that Škoda knows its place. The more pertinent question however is whether VW does?