At first sight, the Paris show appears to be about studied evolution and new production cars – it’s not every day you get a new generation Golf, Clio, Mondeo and Range Rover all at the same show.
Unveiled at its traditional group ‘preview night’ here on Paris’s left bank, the day before the show, VW has played it safe with the Golf VII, but in a very good way. We wouldn’t expect anything else, given the Golf’s evolutionary design history and the fact the model line exists in its own design right, rather than belonging to a wider VW picture. As Walter da ‘Silva said at its unveiling; “There are a handful of cars with a design that, like the Golf’s, has been refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and thus become timeless.”
But the big story here is that it builds not on Golf VI, or even V, but that it returns to the some of the values of the Golf IV, which so many designers admire. Mk IV’s influence is most apparent in the rear fender and C-pillar treatment. Unlike Mks V and VI, the side feature line doesn’t run through the rear fender into the rear lamp cluster, instead fading out before the rear door shutline. That leaves the C-pillar to run down in one continuous surface into the wheel arch, as it did on the IV, which re-endows the Golf with so much of its visual strength and classless-ness.
Also banished are the last vestiges of the round theme that gave the Golf V, in particular, its slightly ‘blobby’ appearance. It’s most apparent in the lamp cans – the internals at the front feature square-edged chrome bezels – and remind us somewhat of the way BMW’s signature four-rings have progressed into more of a squircle. Meanwhile, at the back there’s a much more wide-rather-than-deep can, which is visually reminiscent of Audi, until you catch sight of the signature VW hockey stick motif when they’re illuminated.
The biggest shift though, is a very subtle yet important proportional one. The new MQB platform allows Golf VII to swim against the C-mainstream trend. The proportion is ‘cab backward’ (rather than forward) – the A-pillar indexing with the front wheel centre line and the front overhang reduced. It positions the Golf towards the C-premium A3 and 1-Series and puts clear air between it and cars such the Focus, C’eed and Astra. There numerous interesting surface and detail finishes which we’ll come back to in a blog on the show floor tomorrow.
But for now, because it’s longer, lower, wider and crucially lighter, one can’t help but compare the Golf VII to the recently unveiled iPhone 5. It’s the obvious choice in its segment, it will be bought by many people who would never consider anything else and – while visually very similar to the model that went before it – it manages to come across as simply 15% better than its predecessor all round. And while its design evolution might be obvious or even seem unimaginative, considered in isolation it is still peerless in its class. There won’t quite be queues at VW dealerships, but expect it to sell like the proverbial hot cake.
by Joe Simpson