The Bulli has proven to be a conversation-provoking concept in Geneva this year. Not all are impressed with it, something we suspect is due to fond memories of the MicroBus concept from 2001 and the fact that it references the original microbus in a more conscious and obvious manner than the previous SpaceUp! Concept.
Nevertheless, this is yet another impressive Up! platform variant, and – perhaps most excitingly from the consumer’s perspective – appears to be 85 percent production ready. The pressings, door cards, secondary lamp units that provide mandatory illumination for when the tailgate is lifted at night, and the mouldings and seals all speak real road more than show stand.
Surfacing impresses – note how the outer surface runs out of the flipped hockey-stick graphic inside the taillamp
One aspect that deeply impresses is the simple, elegantly resolved tailgate surfaces you can see in the picture above. A beautiful, undercut bevel surface which marks the colourway division and runs continuously around the car also impresses, yet it creates the biggest design detraction as it runs into the DRG.
The issue is caused by this bevel line turning down to form the edge of a positive surface between the lamps, on which sits a huge VW logo. The overall impression of the DRG references the original Microbus, but looks oddly aggressive. The problem is that, as the bevel surface turns from horizontal to vertical, it overcuts above the lamps, turning the Bulli’s DRG expression into a scowl.
Bevel surface (seen running at the junction of the colour ways, runs around the car but turns down at the inner edge of the lights, creating a scowl
It’s an appearance that’s completely at odds with the ethos of the rest of the car, which features a show-stoppingly cool interior, complete with iPad interface and two rows of three-abreast bench seats, which fold out to create a double bed. It’s a lovely reference to the past, but more importantly, this too appears close to production – it’s similar to the system used in the bigger California.
(Top) iPad slots into a on the IP, which swivels on an arm that – iconically – seems similar to the one used in the previous generation iMac. (Bottom) Owen Ready of Car Design News helps put the Bulli’s interior into its double bed configuration
If this car does make production relatively intact, VW could have a huge hit on its hands. It’s easy and obvious to see how vehicle this would appeal to the empty-nesting baby boomer generation who remember the original with such fondness. Yet it’s also easy to see it tugging at the at-once emotional and rational-thinking Gen-Y, that’s otherwise falling out of love with the car and also to young families looking for space and practicality without sacrificing style. But what really sets the Bulli apart is a sense of light-hearted fun and freedom of movement, that’s straight from the copy book of the original. As a riposte to the current atmosphere of austerity, it is a perfect antidote and a real breath of fresh air.