Currently reading: First drive: Skoda Vision 7S concept
Six-plus-one-seater is the future of Skoda design, with plenty of clever touches that could carry over into production

The Skoda Vision 7S electric concept SUV that was revealed recently is, among other things, a nod to the fact that manufacturers need to box a lot more cleverly when it comes to design and styling. 

Skoda’s design language has been the same for a while now - tweaked here and there for cars like the electric Skoda Enyaq iV, but fundamentally quite a conservative look that has served it well. But as the car’s lead designer, Franck Le Gall, explained, we’re now talking about a new design language - Modern Solid - because “lots of competitors have moved forward and we needed to do the same.

“To me, Modern Solid is about protecting your family, having a dynamic shape but keeping the sweetness and approachability of Skodas.”

It’s certainly a striking car out in the sunshine ahead of our first ‘drive’ today, almost more so because of its simplicity - there’s the odd crease, but its most remarkable feature is the lack of… well… features. Le Gall is most proud of that aspect of it: “We wanted it to be iconic and distinctive, but we also wanted Modern Solid to be simple. Nothing should be over-designed and everything should have a reason. There is a solid body, with full volume, that gives the impression of protecting your family.”

At the front, the new ‘Tech Face’ will be the new face of Skoda, so expect to see more of that on the three electric vehicles coming between now and 2026 (the production version of this Vision 7S will be the last of those, arriving in late 2026). The same goes for the T-shaped lights at the front and back - Star Wars fans will notice the similarity to The Mandalorian’s mask. 

“As much as possible of this concept will make it on the production car. If you look at our past concepts, we carry as much over as possible,” explained Le Gall.

Those production processes will be the stumbling block for some of the wackier materials on the 7S, like the flecked wheel-arch surrounds that were inspired by the soles of trainers. Or the rubber flooring inside, which is made from recycled car tyres. 

With the 6+1 seating, it’s certainly not a small car. Longer by 30cm than a Skoda Kodiaq, it looks huge from side-on and there’s no doubting it will be the brand’s new flagship when it arrives, both from a physical and financial point of view.

Regular readers will appreciate that driving a concept car is not the most revealing exercise. They look good in pictures, but the fundamentals are often missing. And so it proves with the Vision 7S. 

The first thing you notice is that a man needs to be on hand to not only open your door for you, but also keep it open while you slide inside. It all feels a bit Downton Abbey, but then you look at the hinges and realise that there’s not much holding this door horizontally. Said helper is definitely required.

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Jump in and another chap in the passenger seat tells me to press hard on the brake pedal. He’s not wrong. This requires full-on, competition car levels of pressure before my minder is happy and engages drive. We’re limited to 15kph in a car park, but it’s amusing how sharp the steering is. We’re hardly going quickly, but the 7S reacts so fast to steering inputs that the photographer in the back seat cracks his head on the side window. 

The simple dash - speed, battery and range, plus a couple of cameras for the view behind - bodes well for the real thing when it arrives. As does the presence of physical controls for the temperature control.

It’s clear Skoda and the wider VW Group have been stung by the HVAC arrangement in the latest production cars. Daniel Hajek is senior designer of user interface at Skoda and is keen to emphasise that the brand has been listening to customers, spending plenty of time explaining all the haptic controls that work the temperature and can also control the touchscreen.

Hajek is conscious that even the latter needed attention from current screens. The massive 14.6in display is mounted portrait-style (more on that shortly), “with both a hand and elbow support while you’re using it. And we have divided it up, so the bottom has the major controls, while the upper section is for information and display.”

It certainly looks a lot more intuitive - there’s even a shortcut button for the video feed looking at the baby seat - and at least it shows that manufacturers are listening.

But the car’s party trick is the relax mode. If you’re parked up charging the 89kWh battery - incidentally with a faster, 200kW charge capacity than on the Enyaq - then you can press a button and all sorts of magic happens. The seats slide back and rotate towards the middle of the car, the touchscreen rotates to a horizontal position and the pedals and dash recess into the bulkhead. Basically, it turns into an automotive cinema.

Hajek explains that they’re pushing for this in the production car, but I think that’s a touch optimistic, especially when Skoda isn’t a brand that can just bung another £10k on the sticker price to pay for all this. But it’s clever and shows how brands continue to push the mobile living room angle. 

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What’s interesting about this Vision 7S is how it shapes Skoda over the next few years. Simply Clever is still very much a part of the brand, as is the family - both Le Gall and Hajek mentioned the word ‘family’ a number of times. Le Gall goes so far as to explain how the idea of the car started with the interior first, then the exterior fitted around it, a bit like the Fiat Multipla only with less of the looks that only a mother could love.

The centrally mounted baby seat is the most obvious headline example of this - something that Hajek says is being actively looked at for the production car because “it’s the safest part of the car” - but there are other neat touches elsewhere, such as backpacks magnetically mounted in the front seats, or a first aid kit that, again, magnetically attaches to the central spar running down the length of the car.

Ultimately, it’s those little touches that will mark out the production car as a success. If Skoda can bring those into reality, then, by inference, the Simply Clever philosophy will remain as an integral part of the brand - keeping that simple family focus will be vital. If Skoda manages it, the Vision 7S will be a successful flagship. 

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catnip 10 October 2022

The word "solid"is used a lot here, I'm not sure whether "heavy" would be a better choice as that's my main impression of this styling.

The physical HVAC controls get a mention - I was reading AE's long term review of the latest Fabia which appears to have these seperate controls, but apparently its only the temperature that can be changed using these. To change distribution and fan speed you need to go into the touchscreen menus, something which apparently is quite tricky and a lot easier if the passenger does it for you.... Simply not so clever, Skoda.

Pierre 10 October 2022

I like it.  Very much.I'd like  the bumpers to be less obtrusive but overall, a very appealing vehicle that seems to achieve the simplicity that most manufacturers seem to be a bit scared of.

manicm 10 October 2022

The Renault Avantime has been resurrected.

Jeremy 10 October 2022
manicm wrote:

The Renault Avantime has been resurrected.

More like a shrunken Range Rover?

manicm 10 October 2022

No, from the side it's a dead ringer for the Avantime

Bob Cholmondeley 10 October 2022

I think you need new glasses, or you need to look at some pictures of the Avantime to refresh your memory.

Bob Cholmondeley 10 October 2022
Autocar wrote:

Gall is most proud of that aspect of it: “We wanted it to be iconic and distinctive, but we also wanted Modern Solid to be simple. Nothing should be over-designed and everything should have a reason.

That went right out the window with the ridiculous bumpers that would be more at home on a US truck.