Skoda Vision iV concept review
It has been a bit too easy to overlook Skoda’s electric plans in favour of the more imminent Volkswagen I.D. range; a line-up that'll share its 'MEB' platform with Skoda’s electric offerings.
But, as I gently wield the slightly creaky and brittle-feeling Vision iV concept around nervous Skoda executives in a sunny Prague car park, you’ve got to wonder if the Czech brand hasn’t got a chance of stealing the limelight from its German big brother.
After all, the Vision iV concept that we’re driving here – albeit in very restricted conditions – feels like it has more to it than its 301bhp electric powertrain. The twin motors (one on each axle) deliver four-wheel drive and a range of 310 miles from an 83kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
While the electric Skoda Citigo will be the company’s first pure-electric offering when it arrives next year, the SUV that the Vision iV nods towards will be the first dedicated pure-electric car for Skoda, and a much bigger kick-starter of the brand’s electric future. It’s a vital car for the brand.
But the Vision iV itself also feels like a quietly significant moment for Skoda’s design language.
After all, the Vision iV is really rather special to look at. Especially given that it is “85% representative of the production car,” according to exterior designer Omer Halilhodzic.
Even the striking LED strip that runs the width of the car’s nose and the contrasting black grille will make it to production, as will the big wheelarches that will house alloys of up to 21 inches (rather than the 22-inch ones fitted to the concept).
The Vision iV looks more compact than it is. It’s actually about the same length as the Skoda Kodiaq SUV, and will spawn both a coupe-like SUV as seen here, and a more functional, boxy-looking SUV of a similar size.
Surprisingly, Halilhodzic states that the roofline on the coupe version “will actually be lower on the road car than the concept, but it'll still be roomy. That is essential for a Skoda; we will always build affordable, sensible cars.”
That’s easy to forget as I twist the crystal stalk on the steering column to put the Vision iV into Drive. The light, airy cabin feels every bit the boutique interior with its array of cream alcantara, painted-effect wood, brushed metal finishes and chunky cut crystal features. There’s something of high-end Scandinavian design about it, in fact, which is no small praise.
This interior, however, will change drastically for the real car. “You will see the structure – the screens and the horizontal lines of the dashboard,” says Halilhodzic, “and we are making efforts to use recyclable materials, but we must always stick to Skoda heritage and we make attainable cars for the people.”
Think more along the lines of rubberised cupholders than crystal gear-levers, then. It’s also unlikely that the rear three-quarter cameras (in place of conventional wing mirrors) seen on the concept will be offered on the production Skoda SUV.
Still, that all sounds reasonable to us. If some of the bright airiness and textural minimalism can make it to the production model, not to mention the recyclable materials that feature in the concept, we’ll be happy.
And as the iV whirs casually around the compound I’m particularly impressed by the intuitive brake response and precise steering. It’s an easy car to place on the road, even if the concept appears to have no suspension at all, going by the thunking and heaving over drain covers.
Not at all representative of the production car, of course, and typical of delicate, hand-built concept cars that exist for design rather than engineering practice.
I’m quite glad that the F1-style, squared-off steering wheel isn’t intended for production, as it’s mighty impractical in a car that'll see you twirling the wheel through some three turns lock-to-lock when winding around town or through a car park.
The steering wheel also houses a brushed metal switch that simply says ‘Autonomous’. It’s a nod to the Vision iV’s Level 3 autonomy; a suite of advanced driver aids that allow the car to steer itself in certain dual-carriageway conditions, without requiring driver input.
Legislation, however, remains the big stumbling block for next-level autonomy, so while the Skoda might be offered with such advanced technology, it may not be usable in the UK at launch.
It’ll be hi-tech in other ways, too. The big touchscreen perched on the iV’s dashboard and the crisp, digital driver’s readout are close to the car’s real interior design, and there’ll also be LED matrix headlights and potentially even head-up display technology.
Company execs have also confirmed that there'll be a rear-wheel-drive version of the electric Skoda SUV, which will be a more efficient offering in the range. This also suggests that we’ll see cheaper, smaller-battery versions of Skoda’s electric SUV, but for now the company is refusing to confirm one way or another.
The only real details we have on this 83kWh version are that it can charge up to 80% in around 30 minutes.
Production of the electric Skoda SUV is set to start in mid-2020, with sales starting in 2021, although whether the coupe or conventional SUV goes into production first has yet to be decided.
Overall, the concept’s edgy design lustre and suave dynamics are really quite something to experience on the move, but the more important thing is that this concept will morph into a long-range, pure-electric family car with prices expected to start at under £30,000.
If it can retain even half of the Vision iV concept’s abundant character – never mind the 85% we’ve been promised – its blend of affordability, desirability and practicality look set to be a real tipping point for motorists waiting for an electric car.