The Beat Goes On

Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.

The gentleman in the red jacket points out the part that matters, photo (c) Auto, Motor & Sport

The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels.

Complexity counts, photo (c) Car & Driver

Audi also updated the Q7, which kept its overall ‘Subaru Forrester on steroids’ appearance, but received busier graphics to keep it in line with the brand’s more recent models.

Owners’ tastes needn’t be consistent, photo (c) GTspirit

The new Bentley Flying Spur features improved proportions, thanks to its Porsche Panamera-derived platform, but its oversized grille (featuring a rather bland waterfall pattern) in addition to a rather anonymous rear end result in a design lacking the kind of aloof stateliness Crewe used to be associated with.

Uphill struggle, photo (c) CAR

The Kia XCeed is to the regular Ceed what the T-Roc is to the VW Golf. While it looks rather better than VW’s Golf-sized SUV-like offering – and despite the shared trait of peculiarly placed brightwork, the XCeed doesn’t buck the trend of recent Kia designs being rather less fetching than those of a few years ago.

A car to buy for the gap behind its front wheel alone, photo (c) What Car?

BMW unleashed another X6 onto a world that obviously deserves no better. Naturally, it’s even more disgusting than the previous one.

Spot the difference, photo (c) ZigWheels

The updated Škoda Superb gained a bit more chrome – which it didn’t need, but doesn’t harm a design that’s aged remarkably well either.

The French car in fierce mode, photo (c) Parkers

The new Peugeot 2008 might be the brand’s first stylistic misstep in some time. Coming across like the car the Audi Q2 was supposed to be, but didn’t end up looking like, the Peugeot features some wild graphics and a very aggressive snout. It’s likely to become a smash hit.


Blame it on the white paint, photo (c)

The next-generation BMW 1 series heralds an era of utter conventionalism. Gone is the previous generations’ rear wheel drive layout. Gone are the previous cars’ unusual proportions. Instead, the new Einser strictly adheres to the Mercedes A-class recipe of cladding mundane engineering in ‘expressive’ clothing. In the BMW’s case, that means a pudgy stance and highly awkward surfaces and graphics.


The author of this piece runs his own motoring website, which you are welcome to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

36 thoughts on “The Beat Goes On”

  1. Thanks for this short summary, Christopher! I actually wasn’t aware of any of these novelties, and as your report shows, I really haven’t missed anything.

    Looking at the first picture, I first thought I was looking at something Japanese or Korean. It doesn’t look like an Audi at all, does it?

    The Kia carries an air of Infiniti with it (from better times, about ten or fifteen years ago), and I don’t dislike that. The bright and fetching colour leads my eye away a bit from the awkward chrome, but alas we will see this car in black in 90% of the cases, I guess.

    The Peugeot is really the big disappointment here. I wouldn’t have expected anything likeable from all the other makers here, but from Peugeot I did. The rising window line, the C-pillar (it’s a black panel, isn’t it?), the pressing on the rear door and the strange black slab above the windows all make a very ungainly appearance. The aggressivity in the front reminds me of the worst Peugeot days around 2005, when they first introduced their large grille.

  2. Oh dear, it’s all dismally predictable, isn’t it? Good designs replaced by bad, and bad by worse. The real surprise is the 2008: Peugeot design has been pretty good recently, but the latest model is a bit of a mess. The SUV aggression is dialled up to 11 with that front end and the profile is quite different to the outgoing model, with a higher, almost flat bonnet line bluff front-end:

    It’s disappointing to see Puegeot following the heard with big, shouty grilles after the smart, discreet items on recent models. The company has, of course, been here before in recent times with “big gob” grilles and it wasn’t pretty!

    As for the rest of the cars featured in Christopher’s piece, the Superb is the only one I’d regard as aesthetically pleasing (although the Bentley almost gets away with its huge grille).

    1. Good morning, Simon. I wrote my post without seeing yours, but we seem to think alike regarding Peugeot’s chequered recent history with grilles! Regarding the new 2008, it looks very strange in the studio photo above, almost appearing to sag (and shrink) behind that oversized front end. This effect is exacerbated by the geometric creases in the flanks below the window line.

    2. The flat bonnets have now become somewhat typical for Peugeot. Part of it might be due to pedestrian safety, but they also seem to make a trademark of it. The 3008 and 208 use it in a quite convincing way, here I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to see the car in reality – you might be right about this shot that doesn’t show a very flattering perspective.
      It’s a bit of a pity that the offbeat profile of the outgoing model is replaced by something more conventional. While the chrome fillet above the rear door was appearing as a very cheap solution to avoid the higher windows the design suggests, things have become better with newer cars, where the fillet is mostly black. The somewhat sharper grille of the facelifted car also helps giving it a more defined appearance.

    3. I don’t like the new 2008 either but I think it will sell well, in a Nissan Juke kind of way!

    4. I always thought the outgoing 2008 was an unhappy bedfellow with its CUV status, more resembling a theoretical 208-SW on stilts rather than a true CUV as such. The new one brings it in line with the status quo and while I found it almost comically overstyled upon viewing it in a ‘special feature’ in CAR (I really need to swap that for Practical Classics), I saw one on Interstate 8 a few months back and amidst the disparagingly bland Altimas and Rogues that ply our roads it stood out like a tiny little French jewel. Maybe it’s the novelty of seeing it in the flesh, but it kind of works.

      To be fair, rear 3/4 are probably its best angle, and that front end likely won’t age well.

    5. That’s definitely its best angle. It looks better balanced and you can’t see the horrible front end!

  3. When first launched, I thought the original 2008 was a bit half-hearted and neither one thing or another, but the new one can safely be described as ‘over the top’. Moreover, the latter looks like a melange of other marques’ designs – Q2 surfacing down the side panels, new Ford Puma in the way the window line curves up toward the rear, etc.

    The Q3 Sportback is, and Simon states, very Korean looking – more Hyundai than KIA, I think – and in trying to look so very tough leaves a rather weak impression. It comes to something when Audi designers clearly feel they have to add fussy detail on top of detail in order to add emotion, or whatever, to their designs. The A6 in particular is enough to make a grown man weep.

    The Bentley is the only design here which, I would argue is better than the car it replaces, but not by much. I am not sure about the KIA – but that’s probably more about it being a SUV when the hatch is perfectly fine as it is and there is already a very respectable estate in the range (two, if you include the Proceed). The Superb has been be-spoiled by that modish trope, the chrome or light bar strip that joins the rear lamps together.

    Yesterday, I was reading about the new Audi A3 … wait for it … Citycarver !!!???!!! Maybe it means something in German, but it’s just nonsense outside of Audi’s marketing team (as is the car itself).

    1. Apologies – the Citycarver is an A1, not an A3, silly me. That’s the Citycarver is an A1, not to be found on the A1, if you follow my drift?

    2. I don’t know what the “Citycarver” name stands for – not much in German, anyway. I can imagine that they want to evoke something with carving skis (are they called like this in English as well?). But then that’s not something you do in a city, do you?

    3. I considered including the ‘Citycarver’ in this piece, but came to the conclusion that this social media post really says all I have to say about it:

    4. And to think we laughed at Rover when they came up with Streetwise…

    5. Citycarver.

      Sounds like a perpetrator of some of London’s many knife attacks.

    1. Indeed. Given the significance (regardless of whether one likes the car’s looks or not), I assumed it would receive dedicated DTW coverage in due course. Hence the omission.

    2. The C7 was no great beauty, either.

      I think this is a risky redesign. The C8 format change is more risky than the styling. The C8 is front and rear trunk like a Boxster. Engine access is better than a Boxster. But not great because the rear trunk is in the way.

      New Corvette buyers are mostly an older and conservative buyer group. And, a lot of them are not performance driving enthusiasts. Even GM internal marketing refer to them as “waxers”.

      So for that half of the buyer group, the potential increased performance from rear engine is irrelevant.

      But the big change in silhouette may be very relevant.

      I would not be surprised if this model change is a big flop.

    3. If an Audi looks like a Hyundai, why shouldn’t a Corvette look like a Lamborghini?

    4. I’m a “waxer” and I rather like the C8, but it’s certainly not a Corvette as the market understands that model, so a risky move on GM’s part. Price will be key: Lamborghini looks at half to two-thirds the price equals success, much higher equals trouble.

    5. I am also concerned about the C8’s radical new direction.

      It is interesting that the debate about the Corvette going mid-engined has been raging for nearly 50 years. Zora Arkus-Duntov himself was very keen on the move and developed a number of concept cars… but GM remained unconvinced.

      The context has changed too. A lot of people are now talking about this being the last generation of ICE or ‘pure’ ICE sports cars. The next 911 will be hybrid. So, should the C8 really have gone mid-engined now? Would it not have made more sense to keep the V8 front-engined format, and then go radical with a future electric Corvette? Will the Corvette nameplate be retired with the V8, or can it be reinvented?

      All will become clear, I guess.

      As I understand it, GM’s concern is that a lot of their traditional customer base for the Corvette has now retired and they have not been buying the C7 as dutifully as past iterations. So they feel that something more radical was needed. If the base model really will cost Boxster/Cayman money then the C8 will be a real value proposition.

    6. Base price for the C8 will be less than $60,000 US.

      The body structure is mostly aluminum with some carbon and steel. the usual Corvette SMC body panels.

      Engine is 500hp LS derived. The only transmission will be a dual clutch made by Tremec. Since current Corvette sales are 80 percent automatic, that is another high risk production choice.

    7. Jacomo: making a radical change in order to gain new customers could make sense. Still I’m in doubt if thy will succeed. In this light we can probably be glad that their radical solution is a mid-engine layout and not something resembling an SUV of sorts (like they did with the Mustang nameplate).

    1. The Evija looks the bomb. At first glance, generic supercar, but actually a lot more than that.

      Russell Carr is a very considered, thoughtful designer in my view. But he doesn’t seem flashy or have a flamboyant turn of phrase, so will no doubt remain under rated.

    2. Hi Jacobo. I agree entirely. I was initially underwhelmed and disappointed, but then happened upon a 20-odd minute video with Henry Catchpole interviewing Russell Carr was incredibly insightful and changed my perspective. I was so impressed with him – such a modest and polite person.

    3. Angel Martin,

      Batteries are very heavy. Everyone is waiting for a technology break through (solid state?) but at the moment there is very little that Lotus can do.

      It is, however, interesting that they have put a lot of thought into battery conditioning, so that the car can do repeated ‘hot laps’ without severe degradation of performance.

      All that you can say is that the Evija is *relatively* light… for an electric car. If you are not convinced by electric propulsion then that is a different issue.

  4. The new Peugeot 2008 has some – no -too many too busy lines and curves so that this car would be a better DS3 Crossback than a Peugeot. And – as a DS3 – the ugly mammith tusks can disappear immediately. And the DS3 Crossback too.

    The A1 Citycarver looks like an Opel Corsa. Same proportions, same colour, big difference in the price tag. Audi will sell a lot of them anyway…

    Mentionining the 2008 and the Corsa, it is a brilliant idea and very sympathetic from the PSA-company to offer this orange colour as a standard colour. The best idea for a standard colour for a very long time.

  5. it seems to me that the new 2008 represents
    poor styling taken to a level that is criminal.
    forward visibility must be severely compromised.

  6. Having talked about a number of other new cars, a word for one of the most important launches of 2019.

    The BMW 1 series will be a big seller, and represents a wholesale change from the previous generation. And what a mess it is! The switch to a FWD transverse platform presented a real challenge to BMW’s design department, a chance to prove that they could successfully translate key themes and details to a new format. And they have failed. Christopher’s verdict – pudgy and awkward – is just right. It is awful.

    Mind you, the last Mercedes A class was awful too, but the current model is a surprisingly accomplished piece of kit (albeit very sensitive to spec, as is the way these days). So maybe there is hope for the 1 series in 2024.

    1. This FWD crapper weighs as much or more than the previous car. Why are they even doing this ?

      They are going to have a 300+ hp “M” version as well. Will that be AWD only, or are they going to challenge the Dodge Caliber SRT4 for the worst torque steer ever ?

      Given how stupid BMW is becoming, anything is possible.

    2. BMW claims that its 1 series customers neither know nor care that it’s RWD (I don’t think this is true for the six cylinder versions, but never mind).

      So industrial logic wins. Two platforms for everything: FWD for MINI/1 series/2 series/X1 and 2, RWD CLAR for 3 series and up. ICE and electric powertrains for both. I don’t know what the future for the i cars is… neither i3 nor i8 seems to get much love or support these days.

      Unless, of course, BMW enters a JV with a Chinese company for the next MINI, in which case all bets are off. Eventually, if it hasn’t happened already, a BMW exec will play golf with a Mercedes exec and the ultimate platform-sharing venture will be on the cards…

    3. Yes, I did hear of BMW market research where they asked current 1 series what they thought of a switch to FWD, and a significant fraction did not know what their current car was.

      But that was North American buyers. Maybe I am wrong, but my impression is UK buyers and european buyers are more aware, and are not going to be entertained by the idea of paying premium money for an economy car drive format.

  7. We really are The Walking Dead.
    Perhaps it is time to form a support group for car designers?
    I can see myself shuffling to my seat in a small, ill-lit room smelling vaguely of cat and confessing my disaffection with a profession that gave me little in return for my soul.
    A soul that was gladly given in a different, simpler time when cars could still surprise and delight, when driving was fun and the Turin Show was paradise.
    I never did get to visit Lingotto back then. Something to do with either not being management or being an interior designer, but the smiles on the faces of those who had been and the photographs they took of the latest offerings on the altar of design gave succour to those left behind.
    We strove to create the best cars we could that copied no other. The idea being to maybe create a trend, not surf a dying wave.
    Now we dread the latest escapees from the confines of the studios, they will swell the ranks of the hordes of screaming zombie cars, designed by people who can no longer question why it must be so.
    To do so risks market suicide. As they say in Japan, « The nail that sticks up will be hammered down ».
    Difference is dissent in this industry.

    1. Like yourself, I concern myself with automotive design because it’s a subject that fascinates me and (still) elicits passion – for better or worse.

      The hardly subtle disenchantment that pervades this article (and others I’ve penned) hence isn’t the result of some sense of superiority or some writer’s thirst for blood, but the result of having come to the conclusion that this industry I care about has come adrift.

      Incidentally, quite a few of your peers I’ve talked to over the past two years share your own feelings. After all, few designers set out to create mediocrity (or even rubbish) that pleases overzealous, but incompetent marketing ‘specialists’ or clueless product planners. But the corporate structure of today’s car industry prevents them from delivering their best work, resulting in frustration on the part of all but the most listless parties concerned.

      Of course, there are also those designers that truly are part of the problem – the careerist, who only care about winning the internal competition and then drop their pen the second they’ve received their promotion.

      And then there’s the press, who – under pressure from imploding sales and increasing reliance on OEM’s advertising – daren’t speak a word that might anger the hand that feeds them. Car design reporting’s absence of critical faculties means the industry’s self-delusion is turned into gospel.

      So yes, you’re right: This industry is in serious trouble. Let’s point fingers, complain and call spades spades, so that we can at least state with some conviction that we tried our best – even though that didn’t change anything at all.

  8. Citycarver also seems reminiscent of Cityrover, the overpriced re-badged Tata Indica. Would it have been more successful if they had adopted a marketing strategy (and pricing) similar to Dacia, and left it as a Tata? Also from Audi was the proposed A3 Citycrosser, which is the Citycarver but the next size larger.

    It was suggested in Auto Express that BMW may not replace i3. If they have moved to two platforms to cover their range, this leaves the i-cars as anomalies.

    Perhaps the most radical change to the Corvette, at least for UK buyers, is that the new one will be made with RHD. Presumably GM has seen the success (?) that Ford has enjoyed with Mustang.

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