With the transition to French ownership complete, Vauxhall faces the future with a clean new look. By Jake Groves
THIS ISN’T JUST A BIT of eye candy for Vauxhall to wheel out at motor shows. No, the GT X Experimental concept has the heavy burden of signal- ling both a new era of Vauxhall design and the official start of its new status as part of France’s Groupe PSA, not America’s GM.
‘The change meant a massive opportunity for us,’ says Mark Adams, Vauxhall and sister brand Opel’s design chief. ‘Not only are we clearly in the process of moving our vehicle architectures to a different set of platforms, but we had the oppor- tunity to think about what we do as a brand from a design point of view. This is an opportunity for us to redefine what we wanted to be.’
If the new concept looks a little familiar, that’s because elements are carried over from the Opel GT concept car from 2016, which featured clean surfaces, a red sweep running over the side win- dow line and red tyres. It looks even better now, bringing fresh reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for 161-year-old Vauxhall.
It’s smaller than many concepts, with dimen- sions close to those of the current Corsa and trimmer than Vauxhall’s compact crossover duo, the Crossland X and Mokka X.
‘Normally when you see concepts they’re very extreme, but they have little bearing on reality,’ says Adams. ‘Vauxhall and Opel are brands that are in the mainstream, appealing to real people.
We thought: “Let’s create a concept that’s relevant in today’s market.” SUVs are growing in popular- ity but they’re changing because they’re bringing more car-like attributes.’
That explains why so many of the details of the GT X are clean like a hatchback, rather than overtly chunky in common SUV fashion. Adams speaks of how the concept beats a drum for purity and boldness and points to a tradition of clean British design from the likes of Colin Chap- man-era Lotus, domestic-appliance guru James Dyson and Apple’s revered design chief Jonathan Ive, blending together with modern German en- gineering culture.
The glass ‘visor’ – instead of a conventional grille – for example, is both a reference to the an- gular headlight covers on classic Vauxhall Firen- zas and Opel Mantas and a neat way of conceal- ing lidar scanners and various other sensors needed for the semi-autonomous driving equip- ment on board the GT X. The ‘compass’ of lines that includes the central bonnet crease and winged daytime running lights is also aimed at focusing the eye on the Griffin and Bolt badges.
‘Vauxhall and Opel are perceived in not as posi- tive a way as the brands deserve,’ Adams says. The focal point is intended to display more confi- dence in the brands.
Concept cars often sit on oversize wheels, but that’s not the case here. The alloys themselves are only 17 inches, but they look larger thanks to the flashes of yellow playing tricks on the eye.
Tech-wise, the GT X is an all-electric vehicle fitted with a 50kWh lithium-ion battery and wireless inductive charging, which Vauxhall says is a nod to the brand’s future electrification plans, starting with the Grandland X PHEV in 2019 and Corsa EV in 2020, with the whole Vaux- hall car range eventually becoming fully electri- fied by 2024.
The cockpit’s combination of instruments and infotainment screen, dubbed Pure Panel, is pre- sented to the driver in one oblong display, with air vents subtly housed behind it and slim rear- view screens instead of door mirrors, showing images from pop-out rear-view cameras.
The four seats, all mounted to the centre console rather than the floor, look like they’re floating, helping the interior feel airy.
So will any of this actually make production? The new ‘visor’ and ‘com- pass’ motifs will start appearing from 2020. Before then, next year’s new Corsa will have some of the concept’s boldness and simplicity, says Adams, if not many of its details.