Design evolution or revolution?

Renault Clio 4

TWO CARS THAT recently went on sale got me thinking about car design.

Designing a new model is tricky enough, but when it is one of your core mainstream models it is absolutely crucial. Go too radical and you’ll alienate previous buyers, play it too safe and you won’t attract new ones. It’s a minefield.

Renault learned the hard way with the Avantime (below), Vel Saltis and to a degree the previous generation Megane that a sudden and major change in design philosophy can really turn buyers off. But with the new fourth generation Clio (top), they’ve got it absolutely spot on.

Renault Avantime

Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker has taken the Clio in a bold and modern new direction that is attracting a wealth of new, youthful buyers. Yet despite looking so different from previous cars, there is something about it that is so clearly Renault Clio that it has an almost oxymoronic familiarity too.

The first time I saw a new Clio on the road I did a genuine, cartoon-style double take. I thought it looked fantastic. My reaction the first time I saw the new seventh generation Volkswagen Golf, however, couldn’t have been a bigger contrast if I tried.

VW Golf MK6

The simple fact is, I barely even noticed it. It actually took me a few seconds to realise what it was, and even then I questioned whether it really was the new Golf. It wasn’t until I’d seen another two that I finally realised that yes, this actually is the brand new VW Golf.

VW Golk MK7

It (blue car above) looked so much like the MK6 Golf (white car above), itself simply a evolution of the MK5, that it just blended into the rest of the commuter traffic. I’d imagine that some Golf drivers will like this, they don’t want to be noticed. But this is meant to be a brand new model, not the mid-life facelift it resembles.

The Golf will sell in huge numbers simply because it is the VW Golf. But, in design terms at least, it really hasn’t moved the game along. The Clio on the other hand has not just moved it on, it has given it an almighty kick up the arse. Renault deserves all the plaudits it is recieving and more, as well as the sales success that will hopefully be coming.

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