Opel unveils a new design for driving life

New design strategy based on artistry and precision, says GM’s Mark Adam, as Opel pins its hopes on the new Corsa

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:00

“We’re not out to create a line-up of Russian dolls.” That’s the word from Mark Adams, vice president of design at GM Europe, when quizzed about why the model range lacks the sort of uniformity common amongst its rivals.

Speaking at a joint event to mark the upcoming new Corsa and the 50th anniversary of its European design centre, Adams spells out Opel’s new design strategy as “sculptural artistry meets German precision”.

“German precision” is something we are attuned to, but “sculptural artistry” is a bit opaque and hard to marry with past cars such as the Rekord or Admiral B. Yet Opel can also claim some stunners from its European design centre, the first dedicated car-design facility on the continent.

Cars like the Manta, Monza and Calibra turned heads in various motoring eras. As to the future, one only has to look to the Monza Concept from the Frankfurt motor show last autumn to see some promise ahead.

And while the firm’s design mantra is a mouthful, Adams can sketch out a clear vision of how it hopes to differ from the rest. “We need to bring out the pride in the brand’s German roots, while at the same time adding some design flair and fun to the situation,” he says.

Informal atmosphere
If Adams has to exemplify the new mood for the Opel brand, it’s the more informal – and fun – atmosphere that caught on in Germany during the 2006 World Cup. Out went the dour and sour German caricature and in came the trendy Berliners. It was a generational shift and Opel has been trying to capture that in its cars ever since. Adams started with aplomb with the Insignia.

Since then the results have been mixed. The Insignia is a great calling card, but the decision to drive the Zafira upmarket has come at the cost of its previously strong position amongst cash-conscious family buyers. The smaller Meriva has lost ground to rivals, while the Astra awaits a major overhaul, although the sharp-looking GTC still looks fresh when parked next to rivals. New models like the Adam and Mokka show an eagerness to embrace a more fun and youthful image, but again with mixed results.

The new Corsa is perhaps the most important car in this new era – at least until the new Astra arrives. It embraces a mix of the new youthful wave by sharing features with the Mokka, with the sleeker styling of the Insignia. Features like the new touchscreen controls are taken from the Adam along with LED running lights as standard, while the styling is more of an evolution on the outgoing model.

A big draw to the new car will be a new range of 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engines. Those new units will have to take on the highly regarded Ford EcoBoost engine family in order to impress. Opel says that the new engine can develop up to 115bhp, with CO2 emissions of under 100g/km and average fuel consumption of around 65mpg. It also claims that it can be as refined as a four-cylinder engine.

All-new platform
As for the rest of the underpinnings, out goes its current chassis, shared with the current Fiat Punto, in favour of an all-new platform which Opel claims does not share a single component with that of the current Corsa.

Inside and the new model will be available with a raft of high-end options including a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, road sign recognition and a collision warning system. Inside, there will be such options as an automatic parking system, heated steering wheel, ambient lighting and a built-in smartphone dock. Meanwhile, the IntelliLink infotainment system has been updated to include full integration for Android and Apple phones as well as the ability to download individual apps such as TuneIn internet radio.

A half century ago Opel captured the growing importance of design in the buying decisions of car buyers. These days the trend amongst buyers is for cars to feature the same fast-paced tech developments we see in mobile tech. While Adams admits that’s going to be an enormous challenge for the car industry, he still believes that styling that creates an emotional attraction to a motoring metal box is as important as it was 50 years ago.