The Volvo V40 has caused a fair amount of discussion in Geneva, mostly for being surprisingly more likable in the metal than it was in the press photos. But one of its design details has us discussing a new trend as well – the cupshoulder.
Previously seen on the Citroen DS5, the cupshoulder is a gratuitous “swirl” at the end of the shoulder line, coming back towards to the front of the car and allowing for an abrupt surface change that moves towards the rear of the car. This creates a small flat spot that seems like a perfect place to set down your roadside double espresso while making a cross-country (or cross-town) trip.
The cupshoulder on the Citroen DS5
On the Citroen, the swirl visually connects the shoulder crease to the C-pillar. On the Volvo, the swirl tenuously ties to the chrome-tipped tail fins of the P1800ES shooting brake. On both, we find it to be overly ornamental on designs that are otherwise quite well executed.
The cupshoulder on the Volvo V40
By Drew Meehan
Geneva, in the minds of the CDN team, has always been a show where concepts rose to the fore. Of course, this is an important show for production debuts historically too, but it’s always been about great concepts – particularly when we turn to the likes of Renault, BMW and of course, the Carozzeria. This year, concepts – new, truly impressive concepts – are notable by their absence. But there’s a wealth of new production cars here. Three in particular stand out.
First – and perhaps most surprisingly – is the Volvo V40. The consensus on this car from most, seems to be that – in photos – they didn’t like it much. Yet in the metal it feels well judged for its market. It’s perhaps flattered by the A-class, which slightly underwhelms. Most importantly, it feels premium but genuinely ‘Volvo’ in quality. We particularly like the gauge pack.
Next is the Peugeot 208. It’s a real sign of Peugeot on the up and we’d put money on it being a massive sales hit (which the brand really needs). Many people think that the exterior is somewhat busy, but it’s a great improvement over the last generation 207 (and other guppy-mouthed Peugeots). But the real innovation’s on the inside. Where Peugeot’s extensive user research and determination to do something not only new – but better – really shines through.
And completing the triumvirate is the new Porsche Boxster. Evolutionary? Sure. Conceptually new? Of course not. But a beautifully judged, refined piece of design that moves the game on further than other recent ‘new’ Porsches? Yes. This design endows the car with a distinction of its own. That fails to come across in pictures, but it’s well judged and side-by-side with the 911 doesn’t feel as similar as it might first appear. The interior does borrow much from the 911 though – and is therefore a massive step up in quality. Easy to walk past and dismiss as ‘just another evolutionary Porsche’, it’s worth lingering longer over this Boxster.
Posted by Joe Simpson
Back in the mid-noughties, what are now the previous generations of the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes A-Class (in 5 door format) were starkly different. Of course, the Audi and BMW had a degree of similarity, but the 1-Series was more compact than many would have liked in the rear and the trunk. Volvo’s C30 felt like a car from half a segment below and was hurt by its 3-door only format and tiny trunk.
Consequently, the Audi A3 Sportback (5dr) did extremely well in the market – and with a new generation of these products being present at the show, it’s notable how – give or take a few millimeters – BMW, Mercedes and now Volvo have all decided that where the Audi A3 Sportback was positioned, is a very good place for their new generation products to sit.
Essentially, that means a C-segment 5-door hatch, adopting a slightly ‘wagon’-esque rear end and/or roofline. We should probably add the Lexus CT200h to the list of cars in this space too, although in many aspects of design it lags behind.
Of course, Audi are only showing the 3-door A3 here, so we’ll have to wait to find out whether it plans to repositioning the next A3 Sportback. But we wouldn’t bet on that happening. For customers in the market, there are now several very competent and apparently very similar in format cars to choose from.
That’s probably good for sales, but from a design point of view, there’s arguably less variety of format choice now than there was before. The biggest surprise though is how close the V40 feels in terms of quality and premium-ness, to both the A-Class and 1-Series. It’s far from perfect, but it’s easy to see how this car could be a hit for Volvo in the market. It hits the market sweetspot – a quality that many recent Volvos have been missing.