What's HOT What's NOT

In the third of our regular looks at carmakers pushing green car design and those who need to work harder we applaud two successful new (and all-electric) takes on the classic VW Camper van, the VW Bulli and new car brand Mia Electric. Meanwhile we boo and hiss at the dullness of design at Toyota in general while conversely wondering if newly re-born Saab has gone a bit too far with its new Phoenix concept?


Automotive design classics are a rich seam to mine for new car ideas – and often a bit lazy and obvious – but when you get it as right as the new VW Bulli all is forgiven. Smaller than the previous conceptual nod to the 1950s and 60s Camper van – the 2001 Microbus – the 2011 Bulli references all the right nostalgic cues that made us love the original, the V-shaped front, big
badge, two-tone paint job, woven seatbacks and interior flexibility, but adds full electric power, modern lights, a wider stance to allow 3+3 seating plus an iPad-dominated dashboard. Young-at-heart families wanting more fun in their people movers will be praying VW builds something like it.

Scale the Camper van idea down a few notches further and you get Mia Electric’s new ‘Micro.Bus’ trio, coincidentally designed by ex-VW design boss Murat Gunak plus ex-Bertone man David Wilkie. Three versions are available from this summer starting from circa £16k pending government grants. At 2870mm the basic Mia is only some 300mm longer than the Smart, 750kg in weight and offers a centrally mounted driver’s seat plus two rear outboard passenger seats. A slightly longer ‘Mia L’ version offers 1+3 seating while a box van with one seat plus luggage completes the line-up. Cut-out doorsills aid entry and exit and plug-in iPads reduce complexity and cost.


When are Toyotas going to become interesting to look at again? Aside from the fantastic packaging of the iQ city car and the okay but predictable sports car styling of the almost ready FT-86 II concept there’s precious little to shout about for such a huge range. The most recent dull duo to surface –the Verso-S supermini-MPV and the Prius Plus MPV – are so poor they might even act as visual contraceptives, and surely put off any self-respecting would-be procreative couples. Meanwhile, the Saab Phoenixseemingly pitched by some as automotive Viagra – turned off most of the designers GCD talked to at the Geneva show. Maybe Saab could do with a bit more passion to go with its cool Scandinavian vibes, but this over busy design – although laudably aerodynamic at 0.25Cd – had far too much going on in its surfacing, fussy details and crazy wheels to fit Saab’s design aesthetic.