The designer behind Skoda’s cult favourite has sprinkled some outdoorsy magic on his latest project
The Skoda Vision 7S represents several things all in one go: an all-new halo SUV that’ll top the company’s whole range, the first concept to wear the Czech firm’s freshly rebranded logo, and the first instalment of a whole new design language.
It’s also the most rugged Skoda we’ve seen since the mighty Yeti, a firm favourite in the TopGear.com office and perhaps the most likeable crossover of them all. So perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that Karl Neuhold – the exterior designer responsible for the Vision 7S – worked on both projects.
“When I came to Skoda I started with the Yeti,” he tells us. “My predecessors did the show car and I worked on making it into a production car using the Mk5 Golf platform.
“The Yeti was placed over Octavia on the pricelist, so I wanted a richer look to it than the show car. I wanted to soften the design. I think the end result looked quite okay! The Golf platform meant it had small wheels. But I wanted to make it livelier. So I opened up the wheel arches a bit to lift this car off the road. It wasn’t easy to get its short overhangs but we managed it quite well, and it was surprising how good it proved on rough terrain.”
But that doesn’t mean abundant Yeti influences here, however pert his latest SUV’s overhangs are. “The past is the past,” says Neuhold. “We have a young team coming through with fresh and surprising ideas.
“We decided to look at design features that are built into electronic devices. We played with graphics like you see on a smartphone. So the light clusters are a black panel until the lights come on, inspired by when you bring your phone screen to life. It’s a great design feature but it also works for safety – it makes it obvious when the car is functional. Light is the new chrome, I’d say.”
This is also the first Skoda to wear matt paint, which alongside the rugged cladding – made of recycled tyres and a visual nod back to earlier Yetis, intentional or otherwise – is there to give the car an active aesthetic.
“It’s purposely a more outdoor look. Everyone wears trainers now; if you’d worn them at an opera house a decade ago people would ask ‘why are you wearing these shoes?’. But now it’s normal to wear trainers all the time, and that’s what this car represents.”