'Drive New Answers'. That's the tagline for the all-new Qoros brand, a company set to take the European world by storm and shake up the status quo doing so. With an in-house modular platform, hybrid drivetrain and team of big hitters behind the company scenes there's plenty of reason to take this Chinese-Israeli joint venture very seriously indeed.
We're in Germany for a preview of its new production saloon along with its pair of still-secret concept cars weeks before they officially hit the show floor of the Geneva motor show. The concepts turn out to be simple variations on a theme; a wagon born from the production 3 (previously known as 'GQ3') sedan and a ‘Cross Hybrid' that strikes a balance between lifestyle softroader and coupe-like five-door hatchback.
But what's really important is the creation of this new brand, a task so complete that the first bullet point on Chief Designer Gert Hildebrand's to-do list was to pen the company logo. That was three years ago, and the 3 already had its hard points and proportions mapped out. But, compared to Mini, his previous employer and its heritage-rich design structure, this new challenge still left plenty of room to leave his personal mark. "Every company has to start somewhere, and at Qoros our design slogan is ‘We Create Future history'", the glint in his eye suggesting this is something of a refreshing position.
It would be easy to claim the 3 has taken influence from the great German Bauhaus era, every corner displaying a gentle radius so typical of the movement. But Hildebrand reveals the inspiration is in fact far more recent than that, "Everyone at the company are Apple addicts, and some of those (Bauhaus) principles are also found in Apple's design – but it's not meant to be a pastiche of a German design". It's still easy to make visual reference to Volkswagen's Jetta and Passat models though.
A check of the figures reveals the 3 is far wider than the smaller German model though, its 1,838mm width 60mm greater. And it's this width that gives it a confident stance – it's only when viewing the car in the metal that its stature can be fully appreciated. It's also worth noting that the 3 has a long wheelbase at 2,690mm, boosting legroom as is befitting of a Chinese brand, where parents play a massive part in the purchase experience and tend to ride in the rear.
However with an eye firmly on success in Europe as well as China, crash regulations had to be a priority, so the front end has been designed more by legislation than a designer wish-list. The grille remains fashionably large in size, as is the Qoros badge sat in the middle of it, but with a reputation for poor Chinese crash test results it's no surprise Executive Director of Sales, Service, Marketing and Product Strategy, Stefano Villanti is quick to point out that, while they are yet to be tested, the cars have been designed to be compliant with top European safety requirements.
It's not yet been decided whether the 3 – or indeed any of the brand's cars – will come with the steering wheel on the right. But which side the steering wheel sits is not key to this brand's success. Nor should we credit its planned shake-up of personal retail experience, influenced by the information-rich Chinese market. The real reason may be the diversity behind it. A handful of Brits complement Hildebrand in the design studio (including Daniel Hoffrock and Tim Pilsbury) but with 25 nationalities running through the whole operation its outlook is both rounded and culturally diverse.
A compelling initial product simply adds to the expectations realistically placed on this rapidly emerging brand, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its design. A seasoned pro, Hildebrand realises the importance of his and his team's role in creating this future legacy "It's (the 3) going to be the longest living car in the company, and the one that all others will be judged from. We're not here to impress, we're here to last." With words, and products like this, we'd be inclined to agree.
Gert Hildebrand on his new challenge at Chinese startup, Qoros