Skoda has revealed a two-door coupé with a boot, called the Atero. It has been designed by a team of Skoda students who have invested 1700 hours in the car, which started life as a five-door Skoda Rapid Spaceback.
Neither this car nor any other coupé is on Skoda’s development agenda – "it’s too niche", said a spokesman – but the Atero name has been copyrighted. It’s a derivation of the Latin word for black, and potentially could reappear on a production model.The car itself is the result of an in-house competition for Skoda students, now in its third year, that invites them to dream up a variation on an existing model and pitch it to management. The winners get the chance to build it for real; the Atero was picked from a field of more than 90 entries.
It’s been realised by a team of 26, none of whom had met each other before, explains student Daniel Voce. Despite this apparent impediment, they have produced a fully functioning car that, among other things, has substantially altered bodywork from the standard Rapid.
The car was part-inspired by the 1984-90 rear-engined Rapid coupé, but owes little to the earlier car beyond a fastback silhouette. The Atero is unusually proportioned because it sits on the wheelbase of a roomy five-door hatchback; the removal of two doors, the rearward shifting of the B pillars and the remodelling of most of the Rapid’s rear end requiring "a lot of welding" says Scehofer, with some understatement.
Even more welding was needed to turn the Rapid’s tailgate sub-assembly into a precisely fitting bootlid, although "the hardest part", he says, was "the bodywork where the roof pillar meets the rear wing," the slender D pillars cradling a particularly large rear window. This was "the only part made by the Skoda prototype shop," says Scehofer; the remainder of the car was remodelled by the students.
The 26 students chose the areas they wanted to work in, explains Voce, a logistics student who presented the project to management and doubles as its spokesman to the outside world. Voce also ensured that the team functioned smoothly, although he stresses that the project was run on a completely democratic basis, "with all members having equal weight," adds Scehofer. Although the Atero runs a standard 122bhp 1.4 TSI engine and seven-speed DSG gearbox its exhaust is more assertive, and there’s plenty that’s decidedly non-standard, including this Skoda’s power to illuminate. The louvres in the bonnet enclose batteries of red LEDs that randomly pulse "like a fire-breathing dragon", says Voce, the Atero also spotlighting the earth immediately beneath with red-tinted LEDs.
It’s intended to mix the elegant and the sporty, he says, the black underlining the elegance, the red its sporty details. Even the LED headlights glow red, the colour liberally deployed around the Atero’s interior too. Night-riding aboard this machine is clearly intended to be excitingly atmospheric, the more so because the Atero’s boot is the soundstage for a thunderously potent 1800-watt stereo.Impressive, but what this project is mainly about is training Skoda’s students with an inspirational project. "There’s nowhere else in the Czech Republic that gives you this chance," says Scehofer. Both say that the most important thing they learned from the experience was the power of teamwork, besides gaining a new set of friends.
Skoda Atero driven
Driving the Atero is much the same as driving a Rapid because the car is mechanically unchanged. But it feels more different than that because it sounds different, the talkative, gas-bubble blowing straight-through exhaust encouraging you to drive it with verve. There’s not much scope for that on a go-kart track, but we know that the Rapid handles tidily enough, if without the entertainments of a vRS.
Sitting up-front is much the same experience as sitting in a Rapid rendered colourful, but the rear is impressive for its space, the ghostly red glow of the illuminated door bins and the less appealing prospect of having your pate-baked by the sizeable rear screen.
Solar-induced stewing apart, though, this is an interior as spaciously practical as you’d expect of a Skoda, and it flaunts a lot more colourful flair than the production models it has to be said. Perhaps the 22 blokes and four girls who made this car should be unleashed to liven up the product planning department…