Meet the man who designed the new Skoda Fabia
The all-new Skoda Fabia is looking sharper than ever before. The brand’s design boss Jozef Kaban explains his stylish creation
The new Skoda Fabia is winning many friends on account of its great value for money, superb practicality and fine build quality. But it’s the classy design which is arguably the standout feature, as it pulls off the clever trick of being true to the Fabia’s heritage while ushering in an attractive new look.
The man responsible for the transformation is Skoda design chief Jozef Kaban, and we spoke to him about the challenges involved in creating such an appealing, yet entirely functional, car.
Kaban is one of the more interesting designers working in the car industry at present – a Slovak who was sponsored through the Royal College Of Art design course in London. He has a real understanding of what the Skoda brand stands for, and passionately believes value-for-money cars can look good, too.
Fabia is sharper and more angular than before, but familiar Skoda styling cues such as the ‘C’-shaped tail-lights are retained
One advantage Kaban had when starting work on the all-new Fabia was a very clear vision from Skoda boss Dr Winfried Vahland over what was wanted. Vahland said: “I was amazed by the proportions of the Fabia RS racing car – the proportions were so strong. It was flat, it was wide, it was powerful. So I said I want a very sporty-looking Fabia, a car that attracts young people and keeps our elder customers.”
So the challenge was clear, but Kaban knew that executing it would be a fine balancing act. He picks up the story. “We had a strong discussion about what we could do,” he says. “This is the third generation, and for us the Fabia is very important. In the first and second generation we sold over three-and-a-half million cars – a huge number.
New model blends excellent build quality with practical touches
“So we know many people are big fans and waiting for this model with huge expectation. But for the first and second-generation model, the Fabia was the entry point to the brand. We now have the Citigo which is doing this job. For the Fabia, there was the potential to do something in a different way.
You could theoretically do something which is more than only continuing what you did [before]. “We wanted to keep the genetics of the Fabia, keep the genetics of new Skodas, but use the opportunity to make the car a little more sporty, give it a slightly different look. We used the Vision C as a base to give the car a bit more character.”
The Vision C was, of course, the dramatic 2014 Geneva Motor Show concept that previewed the future of Skoda design. Its influence is clear, with the Fabia’s angular flourishes, contoured bonnet and chrome-rimmed grille all recognisable from the show car.
Vision C concept was unveiled by Skoda at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and has paved the way for an exciting new era of design
The sportier flavour was achieved by increasing the width (by 90mm) and reducing the height (by 30mm) to give it a much more purposeful, squat stance than its predecessor. It’s the most dynamic-looking Fabia yet, and with the Colour Concept option – which allows you to jazz up your paintwork by adding a contrasting silver or white finish to the roof and pillars – this really is a Skoda that stands out on the road.But critically, this funky new attitude and style had to be allied to substance.
Continues Kaban: “Functionally, we made it even stronger. This is something that is very important, because when you are buying a car, not everyone does so because they want to be excited. They are not designers or experts in aesthetics, but pragmatically they need the best car for their needs and for us, it was important that the Fabia stayed, as it has been, the best choice [here].”
And Kaban believes he has succeeded in his mission. “Now, from the aesthetic point of view, there is almost a chameleon look, from the normal elegant appearance to the very provocative colour combinations – a very expressive look,” he explains.
Fabia gets some cutting-edge tech, including the pioneering MirrorLink set-up
While Kaban is delighted with the stylish exterior, he bubbles over with excitement when talking about some of the interior advances. MirrorLink – the feature that allows your Android smartphone screen to be replicated on the central display – will, he feels, be a big hit with young buyers. “They will appreciate this, because they can have all their world, new technologies, right in front of them,” he says.
It’s this ability to personalise that he feels is key to car design in 2015. He rationalises: “You give people the chance to make a closer connection to their car. Imagine your iPhone – when you buy it, it is sterile. But once you have your stuff on it, it becomes the most private thing you can imagine. This is what we want, that the car can become a bit of you.”
But all this must be done without compromising Skoda’s core values. Says Kaban: “When I came to Skoda, I had big ideas about the way the brand should develop. But it is so healthy, you have to do it with sensitivity. You don’t want to lose this pragmatic car. You don’t want to do just a design-led car.”
Vahland believes Kaban has got the balance just right on the new Fabia. His verdict? “For me, it is a complete Skoda – functionality, practicality, roominess and a good design.”
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