Skoda is a familiar part of the Indian automotive landscape. Now almost as well known as Honda or Hyundai, Skoda’s cars are easily recognisable, and that’s because all of them ‘speak’ the same design language. They all have muscular shoulders, a wide, strong stance, a rectangular grille with a chrome ‘clip’ at the top, chiseled bonnets, C-shaped taillights and, of course, Skoda’s famous flying arrow logo.
Now that look is evolving, and as head of design Jozef Kaban explains, it’s all in line with the core value of the brand, such as quality, charm, functionality, space and value for money. Most of all, what Skoda is looking for from its new looks is simplicity and easy digestion. Kaban says, “Life has become so complex, many of us long for simple but precise statements.” But, as any designer will tell you, that is one of the most difficult things to achieve. So new Skodas will go through a process of heavy distillation, where designers will slope off any superfluous and unnecessary elements, leaving only the core to shine through. “Our new design language will be precise down to the last detail,” says Kaban, “with clearly modelled surfaces, sharply drawn lines and clear differentiation between body styles.”
“Of course, to start with, it’s important not to miss the point of the car,” he says. We at Autocar India call that fitness for purpose and Skoda lays a huge amount of stress on it. It’s essential for Skoda designers to keep it in mind when the first visualisation sketches are carried out and they even continue to discuss it when they get down to the details. Another aspect Skoda is really hot on is the ‘night view’ of the car. “We make sure our cars look especially attractive at night by actually looking at our prototypes under street lights, and we pay special attention to our headlights as well.”
But what are the elements of Skoda’s new visual language that are likely to be carried forward from this first iteration onto future models? As can be seen from the picture and sketches of this production-ready European Rapid (below), it’s the new nose that will set the tone for all future Skodas. The centerpiece is the new butterfly-shaped grille, with 19 black vertical slats adding a bit of definition. The updated Skoda logo at the centre has been pared down to only the essential and is finished in chrome and black. The Skoda name and the attractive green background, however, have been deleted. There’s plenty of high-quality black in the chin, there’s some around the headlights, and oversized for lights, similar to those on the Superb, have been used as well.
There’s nothing really new around the rear of the car. The C-shaped tail-lights are carried over, Skoda’s monochrome badge in the centre gives the rear a slightly different feel and the word Skoda, now deleted from the logo, makes an appearance on the bootlid. And what of the skinning on future Skodas? Kaban’s pretty clear, “Our cars will be sporty but not too muscular, and well balanced but not flexed,” which should work really well.
Of course, part of the reason Skoda has evolved its look is because it now shares a greater proximity to mother brand Volkswagen. Whereas in the past both Skoda and Volkswagen each had their own distinct look, with every single body panel unique, today there is far more collusion between the two. VW’s Vento and Skoda’s Rapid in India were the first cars from the two brands to share a significant amount of body panels, and now the new sub-compact VW Up and Skoda Citigo share a majority of their exterior bits. And that means their style sheets automatically have to get close. With more attitude and more aggression, Skoda’s younger, funkier look should hold it in good stead in coming years. It’s not secret customers, especially in markets like India, are getting younger and younger, and that can only mean Skoda is onto a good thing.